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HOLLAND THOMPSON 



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THE AGE OF INVENTION 



TEXTBOOK EDITION 

THE CHRONICLES 

OF AMERICA SERIES 

ALLEN JOHNSON 

EDITOR 

GERHARD R. LOMER 

CHARLES W. JEFFERYS 

ASSISTANT EDITORS 



{? 3 



T H F 1 
AGE OF INVENTION 

A CHRONICLE OF 
MECHANICAL CONQUEST 
BY HOLLAND THOMPSON 




NEW HAVEN: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

TORONTO: GLASGOW, BROOK & CO. 

LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD 

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 



Copyright, 1921, by Yale University Press. 



UNIV. OF MASSACHUSETTS 
AT BOSTON - LIBRARY 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



PREFATORY NOTE 

This volume is not intended to be a complete 
record of inventive genius and mechanical progress 
in the United States. A bare catalogue of notable 
American inventions in the nineteenth century 
alone could not be compressed into these pages. 
Nor is it any part of the purpose of this book to 
trespass on the ground of the many mechanical 
works and encyclopedias which give technical 
descriptions and explain in detail the principle of 
every invention. AT? this book seeks to do is to 
outline the personalities of some of the outstanding 
American inventors and indicate the significance 
of their achievements. 

Acknowledgments are due the Editor of the 
Series and to members of the staff of the Yale 
University Press — particularly, Miss Constance 
Lindsay Skinner, Mr. Arthur Edwin Krows, and 
Miss Frances Hart — without whose intelligent 

vii 



viii PREFATORY NOTE 

assistance the book could not have been completed 
in time to take its place in the Series. 

H. T. 

College op the City op New "York. 
May 10, 1921. 



CONTENTS 

I. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES Page 1 

II. ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN " 32 

III. STEAM IN CAPTIVITY " 53 

IV. SPINDLE. LOOM, AND NEEDLE IN NEW 

ENGLAND " 84 

V. THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION " 110 

VI. AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION " 128 

VII. THE STORY OF RUBBER " 157 

VIII. PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP " 175 

IX. THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY " 194 

X. THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR " 220 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE " 247 

INDEX " 255 



THE AGE OF INVENTION 
CHAPTER I 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 

On Milk Street, in Boston, opposite the Old South 
Church, lived Josiah Franklin, a maker of soap and 
candies. He had come to Boston with his wife 
about the year 1682 from the parish of Ecton, 
Northamptonshire, England, where his family had 
lived on a small freehold for about three hundred 
years. His English wife had died, leaving him 
seven children, and he had married a colonial girl, 
Abiah Folger, whose father, Peter Folger, was a 
man of some note in early Massachusetts. 

Josiah Franklin was fifty-one and his wife Abiah 
thirty-nine, when the first illustrious American in- 
ventor was born in their house on Milk Street, 
January 17, 1706. He was their eighth child and 
Josiah's tenth son and was baptized Benjamin. 



2 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

What little we know of Benjamin's childhood is 
contained in his Autobiography, which the world 
has accepted as one of its best books and which was 
the first American book to be so accepted. In the 
crowded household, where thirteen children grew 
to manhood and womanhood, there were no luxu- 
ries. Benjamin's period of formal schooling was 
less than two years, though he could never remem- 
ber the time when he could not read, and at the 
age of ten he was put to work in his father's shop. 
Benjamin was restless and unhappy in the shop. 
He appeared to have no aptitude at all for the 
business of soap making. His parents debated 
whether they might not educate him for the minis- 
try, and his father took him into various shops in 
Boston, where he might see artisans at work, in the 
hope that he would be attracted to some trade. 
But Benjamin saw nothing there that he wished 
to engage in. He was inclined to follow the sea, as 
one of his older brothers had done. 

His fondness for books finally determined his 
career. His older brother James was a printer, and 
in those days a printer was a literary man as well 
as a mechanic. The editor of a newspaper was 
always a printer and often composed his articles as 
he set them in type; so "composing" came to mean 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 3 

typesetting, and one who sets type is a compositor. 
Now James needed an apprentice. It happened 
then that young Benjamin, at the age of thirteen, 
was bound over by law to serve his brother. 

James Franklin printed the New England Cour- 
ant, the fourth newspaper to be established in the 
colonies. Benjamin soon began to write articles 
for this newspaper. Then when his brother was put 
in jail, because he had printed matter considered 
libelous, and forbidden to continue as the publisher, 
the newspaper appeared in Benjamin's name. 

The young apprentice felt that his brother was 
unduly severe and, after serving for about two 
years, made up his mind to run away. Secretly he 
took passage on a sloop and in three days reached 
New York, there to find that the one printer in the 
town, William Bradford, could give him no work. 
Benjamin then set out for Philadelphia. By boat to 
Perth Amboy, on foot to Burlington, and then by 
boat to Philadelphia was the course of his journey, 
which consumed five days. On a Sunday morning 
in October, 1723, the tired, hungry boy landed 
upon the Market Street wharf, and at once set 
out to find food and explore America's metropolis. 

Benjamin found employment with Samuel Kei- 
mer, an eccentric printer just beginning business. 



4 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

and lodgings at the house of Read, whose daughter 
Deborah was later to become his wife. The in- 
telligent young printer soon attracted the notice of 
Sir William Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania, who 
promised to set him up in business. First, however, 
he must go to London to buy a printing outfit. 
On the Governor's promise to send a letter of credit 
for his needs in London, Franklin set sail; but the 
Governor broke his word, and Franklin was obliged 
to remain in London nearly two years working at 
his trade. It was in London that he printed the 
first of his many pamphlets, an attack on revealed 
religion, called A Dissertation on Liberty and Neces- 
sity, Pleasure and Pain. Though he met some in- 
teresting persons, from each of whom he extracted, 
according to his custom, every particle of informa- 
tion possible, no future opened for him in London, 
and he accepted an offer to return to Philadelphia 
with employment as a clerk. But early in 1727 his 
employer died, and Benjamin went back to his 
trade, as printers always do. He found work again 
in Keimer's printing office. Here his mechanical 
ingenuity and general ability presently began to 
appear; he invented a method of casting type 5 
made ink, and became, in fact, the real manager of 
the business. 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 5 

The ability to make friends was one of Franklin's 
traits, and the number of his acquaintances grew 
rapidly, both in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 
"I grew convinced," he naively says, "that truth, 
sincerity, and integrity in dealings between man and 
man were of the utmost importance to the felicity 
of life." Not long after his return from England 
he founded in Philadelphia the Junto, a society 
which at its regular meetings argued various ques- 
tions and criticized the writings of the members. 
Through this society he enlarged his reputation as 
well as his education. 

The father of an apprentice at Keimer's fur- 
nished the money to buy a printing outfit for his 
son and Franklin, but the son soon sold his share, 
and Benjamin Franklin, Printer, was fairly estab- 
lished in business at the age of twenty -four. The 
writing of an anonymous pamphlet on The Nature 
and Necessity of a Paper Currency called attention 
to the need of a further issue of paper money in, 
Pennsylvania, and the author of the tract was re- 
warded with the contract to print the money, "a 
very profitable jobb, and a great help to me." 
Small favors were thankfully received. And: "I 
took care not only to be in reality industrious and 
frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary. 



8 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

I drest plainly; I was seen at no places of idle di- 
version." And, "to show that I was not above my 
business, I sometimes brought home the paper 
I purchas'd at the stores thro' the streets on a 
wheelbarrow." 

The Universal Instructor in All Arts and Sciences 
and Pennsylvania Gazette: this was the high-sound- 
ing name of a newspaper which Franklin's old 
employer, ICeimer, had started in Philadelphia. 
But bankruptcy shortly overtook Keimer, and 
Franklin took the newspaper with its ninety sub- 
scribers. The "Universal Instructor" feature of 
the paper consisted of a page or two weekly of 
Chambers's Encyclopaedia. Franklin eliminated this 
feature and dropped the first part of the long name. 
The Pennsylvania Gazette in Franklin's hands soon 
became profitable. And it lives today in the full- 
ness of abounding life, though under another name. 
"Founded a?d! 1728 by Benj. Franklin" is the 
proud legend of The Saturday Evening Post, which 
carries on, in our own times, the Franklin tradition. 

The Gazette printed bits of local news, extracts 
from the London Spectator, jokes, verses, humorous 
.attacks on Bradford's Mercury, a rival paper, moral 
essays by the editor, elaborate hoaxes, and pungent 
political or social criticism. Often the editor wrote 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 7 

and printed letters to himself, either to emphasize 
some truth or to give him the opportunity to ridi- 
cule some folly in a reply to "Alice Addertongue," 
"Anthony After wit, " or other mythical but none 
the less typical person. 

If the countryman did not read a newspaper, or 
buy books, he was, at any rate, sure to own an 
almanac. So in 1732 Franklin brought out Poor 
Richard's Almanack. Three editions were sold 
within a few months. Year after year the sayings 
of Richard Saunders, the alleged publisher, and 
Bridget, his wife, creations of Franklin's fancy, 
were printed in the almanac. Years later the most 
striking of these sayings were collected and pub- 
lished. This work has been translated into as many 
as twenty languages and is still in circulation today, 

Franklin kept a shop in connection with his 
printing office, where he sold a strange variety of 
goods : legal blanks, ink, pens, paper, books, maps, 
pictures, chocolate, coffee, cheese, codfish, soap, 
linseed oil, broadcloth, Godfrey's cordial, tea, 
spectacles, rattlesnake root, lottery tickets, and 
stoves — to mention only a few of the many 
articles he advertised. Deborah Read, who be- 
came his wife in 1730, looked after his house, 
tended shop, folded and stitched pamphlets, 



8 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

bought rags, and helped him to live economically* 
"We kept no idle servants," says Franklin, "our 
table was plain and simple, our furniture of the 
cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long 
time bread and milk (no tea) , and I ate it out of a 
twopenny earthen porringer with a pewter spoon." 

With all this frugality, Franklin was not a miser; 
he abhorred the waste of money, not the proper 
use. His wealth increased rapidly. "I experienced 
too," he says, "the truth of the observation, 'that 
after getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy 
to get the second, 9 money itself being of a prolific 
nature." He gave much unpaid public service and 
subscribed generously to public purposes; yet he 
was able, at the early age of forty-two, to turn ovel 
his printing office to one of his journeymen, and tc 
retire from active business, intending to devote 
himself thereafter to such public employment as 
should come his way, to philosophical or scientific 
studies, and to amusements. 

From boyhood Franklin had been interested in 
natural phenomena. His Journal of a Voyage from 
London to Philadelphia, written at sea as he re- 
turned from his first stay in London, shows un- 
usual powers of exact observation for a youth of 
twenty. Many of the questions he propounded to 



FRATAXIN AND HIS TIMES S 

the Junto had a scientific bearing. He made an 
original and important invention in 1742, the 
"Pennsylvania fireplace," which, under the name 
of the Franklin stove, is in common use to this day, 
and which brought to the ill-made houses of the 
time increased comfort and a great saving of fuel. 
But it brought Franklin no pecuniary reward, for 
he never deigned to patent any of his inventions. 

His active, inquiring mind played upon hundreds 
of questions in a dozen different branches of science. 
He studied smoky chimneys; he invented bifocal 
spectacles; he studied the effect of oil upon ruffled 
water; he identified the "dry bellyache" as lead 
poisoning; he preached ventilation in the days 
when windows were closed tight at night, and upon 
the sick at all times; he investigated fertilizers in 
agriculture. Many of his suggestions have since 
borne fruit, and his observations show that he 
foresaw some of the great developments of the 
nineteenth century. 

His fame in science rests chiefly upon his dis- 
coveries in electricity. On a visit to Boston in 
1746 he saw some electrical experiments and at 
once became deeply interested. Peter Collinson of 
London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, who had 
made several gifts to the Philadelphia Library, sent 



10 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

over some of the crude electrical apparatus of the 
day, which Franklin used, as well as some con- 
trivances he had purchased in Boston. He says in 
a letter to Collinson: "For my own part, I never 
was before engaged in any study that so engrossed 
my attention and my time as this has lately done." 

Franklin's letters to Collinson tell of his first 
experiments and speculations as to the nature of 
electricity. Experiments made by a little group of 
friends showed the effect of pointed bodies in draw- 
ing off electricity. He decided that electricity was 
not the result of friction, but that the mysterious 
force was diffused through most substances, and 
that nature is always alert to restore its equi- 
librium. He developed the theory of positive and 
negative electricity, or plus and minus electrifica- 
tion. The same letter tells of some of the tricks 
which the little group of experimenters w T ere accus- 
tomed to play upon their wondering neighbors. 
They set alcohol on fire, relighted candles just 
blown oit, produced mimic flashes of lightning, 
gave shocks on touching or kissing, and caused an 
artificial spider to move mysteriously. 

Franklin carried on experiments with the Leyden 
jar, made an electrical battery, killed a fowl and 
roasted it upon a spit turned by electricity, sent a 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 11 

current through water and found it still able to 
ignite alcohol, ignited gunpowder, and charged 
glasses of wine so that the drinkers received shocks. 
More important, perhaps, he began to develop the 
theory of the identity of lightning and electricity, 
and the possibility of protecting buildings by iron 
rods. By means of an iron rod he brought down 
electricity into his house, where he studied its 
effect upon bells and concluded that clouds were 
generally negatively electrified. In June, 1752, he 
performed the famous experiment with the kite, 
drawing down electricity from the clouds and 
charging a Leyden jar from the key at the end of 

the string. 

Franklin's letters to Collinson were read before 
the Royal Society but were unnoticed. Collinson 
gathered them together, and they were published 
in a pamphlet which attracted wide attention. 
Translated into French, they created great excite- 
ment, and Franklin's conclusions were generally 
accepted by the scientific men of Europe. The 
Royal Society, tardily awakened, elected Franklin 
a member and in 1753 awarded him the Copley 
medal with a complimentary address. 1 

1 It may be useful to mention some of the scientific facts and 
mechanical principles which were known to Europeans at this 



t£ THE AGE OF INVENTION 

If Franklin's desire to continue his scientific re« 
searches had been gratified, it is possible that he 
might have discovered some of the secrets for which 
the world waited until Edison and his contempo- 
raries revealed them more than a century later. 
Franklin's scientific reputation has grown with the 
years, and some of his views seem in perfect accord 
with the latest developments in electricity. But 
he was not to be permitted to continue his experi- 
ments. He had shown his ability to manage men 
and was to be called to a wider field. 

Franklin's influence among his fellow citizens in 

time. More than one learned essay has been written to prove 
the mechanical indebtedness of the modern world to the ancient, 
particularly to the works of those mechanically minded Greeks: 
Archimedes, Aristotle, Ctesibius, and Hero of Alexandria. The 
Greeks employed the lever, the tackle, and the crane, the force- 
pump, and the suction-pump. They had discovered that steam 
could be mechanically applied, though they never made any 
practical use of steam. In common with other ancients they 
knew the principle of the mariner's compass. The Egyptians had 
the water-wheel and the rudimentary blast-furnace. The pen- 
dulum clock appears to have been an invention of the Middle 
Ages. The art of printing from movable type, beginning with 
Gutenberg about 1450, helped to further the Renaissance. The 
improved mariner's compass enabled Columbus to find the New 
World; gunpowder made possible its conquest. The compound 
microscope and the first practical telescope came from the spec- 
tacle makers of Middelburg, Holland, the former about 1590 and 
the latter about 1608. Harvey, an English physician, had dis- 
covered the circulation of the blood in 1628, and Newton, an 
English mathematician, the law of gravitation in 1685. 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 13 

Philadelphia was very great. Always ostensibly 
keeping himself in the background and working 
through others, never contradicting, but carrying 
his point by shrewd questions which showed the 
folly of the contrary position, he continued to set 
on foot and carry out movements for the public 
good. He established the first circulating library 
in Philadelphia, and one of the first in the country, 
and an academy which grew into the University of 
Pennsylvania. He was instrumental in the foun- 
dation of a hospital. "I am often ask'd by those 
to whom I propose subscribing," said one of the 
doctors who had made fruitless attempts to raise 
money for the hospital, "Have you consulted 
Franklin upon this business?" Other public 
matters in which the busy printer was engaged 
were the paving and cleaning of the streets, better 
street lighting, the organization of a police force 
and of a fire company. A pamphlet which he pub- 
lished, Plain Truth, showing the helplessness of the 
colony against the French and Indians, led to the 
organization of a volunteer militia, and funds were 
raised for arms by a lottery. Franklin himself was 
elected colonel of the Philadelphia regiment, "but 
considering myself unfit, I declined the station and 
recommended Mr, Lawrence, a fine person and 



n THE AGE OF INVENTION 

man of influence, who was accordingly appointed." 
In spite of his militarism, Franklin retained the 
position which he held as Clerk of the Assembly, 
though the majority of the members were Quakers 
opposed to war on principle. 

The American Philosophical Society owes its 
origin to Franklin. It was formally organized on 
his motion in 1743, but the society has accepted 
the organization of the Junto in 1727 as the actual 
date of its birth. From the beginning the society 
has had among its members many leading men of 
scientific attainments or tastes, not only of Phila- 
delphia, but of the world. In 1769 the original 
society was consolidated with another of similar 
aims, and Franklin, who was the first secretary of 
the society, was elected president and served until 
his death. The first important undertaking was 
the successful observation of the transit of Venus 
in 1769, and many important scientific discoveries 
have since been made by its members and first 
given to the world at its meetings. 

Franklin's appointment as one of the two Depu- 
ty Postmasters General of the colonies in 1753 
enlarged his experience and his reputation. He 
visited nearly all the post offices in the colonies and 
introduced many improvements into the service. 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 15 

In none of his positions did his transcendent busi- 
ness ability show to better advantage. He estab- 
lished new postal routes and shortened others. 
There were no good roads in the colonies, but his 
post riders made what then seemed wonderful 
speed. The bags were opened to newspapers, the 
carrying of which had previously been a private 
and unlawful perquisite of the riders. Previously 
there had been one mail a week in summer between 
New York and Philadelphia and one a month in 
winter. The service was increased tc three a week 
in summer and one in winter. 

The main post road ran from northern New 
England to Savannah, closely hugging the seacoast 
for the greater part of the way. Some of the mile- 
stones set by Franklin to enable the postmasters to 
compute the postage, which was fixed according to 
distance, are still standing. Crossroads connected 
some of the larger communities away from the 
seacoast with the main road, but when Franklin 
died, after serving also as Postmaster General of 
the United States, there were only seventy -five 
post offices in the entire country. 

Franklin took a hand in the final struggle be- 
tween France and England in America. On the 
eve of the conflict, in 1754, commissioners from the 



16 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

several colonies were ordered to convene at Albany 
for a conference with the Six Nations of the Iro- 
quois, and Franklin was one of the deputies from 
Pennsylvania. On his way to Albany he "pro- 
jected and drew a plan for the union of all the 
colonies under one government so far as might be 
necessary for defense and other important general 
purposes." This statesmanlike "Albany Plan of 
Union, ,: however, came to nothing. "Its fate was 
singular," says Franklin; "the assemblies did not 
adopt it, as they all thought there was too much 
prerogative in it and in England it was judg'd to 
have too much of the democratic." 

How to raise funds for defense was always a 
grave problem in the colonies, for the assemblies 
controlled the purse-strings and released them 
with a grudging hand. In face of the French men- 
ace, this was Governor Shirley's problem in Massa- 
chusetts, Governor Dinwiddie's in Virginia, and 
Franklin's in the Quaker and proprietary province 
of Pennsylvania. Franklin opposed Shirley's sug- 
gestion of a general tax to be levied on the colonies 
by Parliament, on the ground of no taxation with- 
out representation, but used all his arts to bring 
the Quaker Assembly to vote money for defense, 
and succeeded. When General Braddock arrived 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 17 

in Virginia Franklin was sent by the Assembly to 
confer with him in the hope of allaying any preju- 
dice against Quakers that the general might have 
conceived. If that blustering and dull-witted 
soldier had any such prejudice, it melted away 
when the envoy of the Quakers promised to procure 
wagons for the army. The story of Braddock's 
disaster does not belong here, but Franklin formed 
a shrewd estimate of the man which proved accu- 
rate. His account of Braddock's opinion of the 
colonial militia is given in a sentence: "He smil'd 
at my ignorance, and reply 'd, ' These savages may, 
indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw Ameri- 
can militia, but upon the King's regular and dis- 
ciplin'd troops, sir, it is impossible they should 
make any impression." After Braddock's defeat 
the Pennsylvania Assembly voted more money for 
defense, and the unmilitary Franklin was placed in 
command of the frontier with full power. He built 
forts, as he had planned, and incidentally learned 
much of the beliefs of a group of settlers in the back 
country, the "Unitas Fratrum, " better known as 
the Moravians. 

The death struggle between English and French 
in America served only to intensify a lesser conflict 
that was being waged between the Assembly and 



18 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

the proprietors of Pennsylvania ; and the Assembly 
determined to send Franklin to London to seek 
judgment against the proprietors and to request 
the King to take away from them the government 
of Pennsylvania. Franklin, accompanied by his 
son William, reached London in July, 1757, and 
from this time on his life was to be closely linked 
with Europe. He returned to America six years 
later and made a trip of sixteen hundred miles in- 
specting postal affairs, but in 1764 he was again 
sent to England to renew the petition for a royal 
government for Pennsylvania, which had not yet 
been granted. Presently that petition was made 
obsolete by the Stamp Act, and Franklin became 
the representative of the American colonies against 
King and Parliament. 

Franklin did his best to avert the Revolution. 
He made many friends in England, wrote pam- 
phlets and articles, told comical stories and fables 
where they might do some good, and constantly 
strove to enlighten the ruling class of England upon 
conditions and sentiment in the colonies. His 
examination before the House of Commons in 
February, 1766, marks perhaps the zenith of his 
intellectual powers. His wide knowledge, his 
wonderful poise, his ready wit, his marvelous gift 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 19 

for clear and epigrammatic statement, were never 
exhibited to better advantage and no doubt has- 
tened the repeal of the Stamp Act. Franklin re- 
mained in England nine years longer, but his efforts 
to reconcile the conflicting claims of Parliament 
and the colonies were of no avail, and early in 1775 
he sailed for home. 

Franklin's stay in America lasted only eighteen 
months, yet during that time he sat in the Con- 
tinental Congress and as a member of the most 
important committees; submitted a plan for a 
union of the colonies ; served as Postmaster General 
and as chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee 
of Safety; visited Washington at Cambridge; went 
to Montreal to do what he could for the cause of 
independence in Canada; presided over the con- 
vention which framed a constitution for Pennsyl- 
vania; was a member of the committee appointed 
to draft the Declaration of Independence and of 
the committee sent on the futile mission to New 
York to discuss terms of peace with Lord Howe. 

In September, 1776, Franklin was appointed 
envoy to France and sailed soon afterwards. The 
envoys appointed to act with him proved a handi- 
cap rather than a help, and the great burden of a 
difficult and momentous mission was thus laid upon 



20 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

an old man of seventy. But no other American 
could have taken his place. His reputation in 
France was already made, through his books and 
inventions and discoveries. To the corrupt and 
licentious court he was the personification of the 
age of simplicity, which it was the fashion to ad- 
mire; to the learned, he was a sage; to the common 
man he was the apotheosis of all the virtues; to 
the rabble he was little less than a god. Great 
ladies sought his smiles; nobles treasured a kindly 
word; the shopkeeper hung his portrait on the 
wall; and the people drew aside in the streets 
that he might pass without annoyance. Through 
all this adulation Franklin passed serenely, if not 
unconsciously. 

The French ministers were not at first willing to 
make a treaty of alliance, but under Franklin's 
influence they lent money to the struggling colonies. 
Congress sought to finance the war by the issue of 
paper currency and by borrowing rather than by 
taxation, and sent bill after bill to Franklin, who 
somehow managed to meet them by putting his 
pride in his pocket, and applying again and 
again to the French Government. He fitted out 
privateers and negotiated with the British con- 
cerning prisoners. At length he won from France 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 21 

recognition of the United States and then the 
Treaty of Alliance. 

Not until two years after the Peace of 1783 
would Congress permit the veteran to come home. 
And when he did return in 1785 his people would 
not allow him to rest. At once he was elected Presi- 
dent of the Council of Pennsylvania and twice 
reelected in spite of his protests. He was sent to 
the Convention of 1787 which framed the Constitu- 
tion of the United States. There he spoke seldom 
but always to the point, and the Constitution is 
the better for his suggestions. With pride he 
affixed his signature to that great instrument, as 
he had previously signed the Albany Plan of Union, 
the Declaration of Independence, and the Treaty 
of Paris. 

Benjamin Franklin's work was done. He was 
now an old man of eighty-two summers and his 
feeble body was racked by a painful malady. Yet 
he kept his face towards the morning. About a 
hundred of his letters, written after this time, have 
been preserved. These letters show no retrospec- 
tion, no looking backward. They never mention 
"the good old times." As long as he lived, Frank- 
lin looked forward. His interest in the mechanical 
arts and in scientific progress seems never to have 



£2 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

abated. He writes in October, 1787, to a friend in 
France, describing his experience with lightning 
conductors and referring to the work of David 
Hittenhouse, the celebrated astronomer of Phila- 
delphia. On the 31st of May in the following 
year he is writing to the Reverend John Lathrop 
of Boston: 

I have long been impressed with the same sentiments 
you so well express, of the growing felicity of mankind, 
from the improvement in philosophy, morals, politics, 
and even the conveniences of common living, and the 
invention of new and useful utensils and instruments; 
so that I have sometimes wished it had been my des- 
tiny to be born two or three centuries hence. For in- 
vention and improvement are prolific, and beget more 
of their kind. The present progress is rapid. Many of 
great importance, now unthought of, will, before that 
period, be produced. 

Thus the old philosopher felt the thrill of dawn and 
knew that the day of great mechanical inventions 
was at hand. He had read the meaning of the 
puffing of the young steam engine of James Watt 
and he had heard of a marvelous series of British 
inventions for spinning and weaving. He saw that 
his own countrymen were astir, trying to substitute 
the power of steam for the strength of muscles and 
the fitful wind. John Fitch on the Delaware and 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 23 

James Rumsey on the Potomac were already 
moving vessels by steam. John Stevens of New 
York and Hoboken had set up a machine shop that 
was to mean much to mechanical progress in 
America. Oliver Evans, a mechanical genius of 
Delaware, was dreaming of the application of high- 
pressure steam to both road and water carriages. 
Such manifestations, though still very faint, were 
to Franklin the signs of a new era. 

And so, with vision undimmed, America's most 
famous citizen lived on until near the end of the 
first year of George Washington's administration. 
On April 17, 1790, his unconquerable spirit took 
its flight. 

In that year, 1790, was taken the First Census 
of the United States. The new nation had a popu- 
lation of about four million people. It then in- 
cluded practically the present territory east of the 
Mississippi, except the Floridas, which belonged to 
Spain. But only a small part of this territory was 
occupied. Much of New York and Pennsylvania 
was savage wilderness. Only the seacoast of 
Maine was inhabited, and the eighty-two thousand 
inhabitants of Georgia hugged the Savannah River. 
Hardy pioneers had climbed the Alleghanies into 



24 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Kentucky and Tennessee, but the Northwest 
Territory — comprising Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, 
Illinois, and Wisconsin — was not enumerated at 
all, so scanty were its people, perhaps not more 
than four thousand. 

Though the First Census did not classify the 
population by occupation it is certain that nine- 
tenths of the breadwinners worked more or less 
upon the soil. The remaining tenth were engaged 
in trade, transportation, manufacturing, fishing, 
and included also the professional men, doctors, 
lawyers, clergymen, teachers, and the like. In 
other words, nine out of ten of the population were 
engaged primarily in the production of food, an 
occupation which today engages less than three 
out of ten. This comparison, however, requires 
some qualification. The farmer and the farmer's 
wife and children performed many tasks which are 
now done in factories. The successful farmer on 
the frontier had to be a jack of many trades. Often 
he tanned leather and made shoes for his family 
and harness for his horses. He was carpenter, 
blacksmith, cobbler, and often boat-builder and 
fisherman as well. His wife made soap and can- 
dles, spun yarn and dyed it, wove cloth and 
made the clothes the family wore, to mention only 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 25 

a few of the tasks of the women of the eighteenth 
century. 

The organization of industry, however, was be- 
ginning. Here and there were small paper mills, 
glass factories — though many houses in the back 
country were without glass windows — potteries, 
and iron foundries and forges. Capitalists, in some 
places, had brought together a few handloom 
weavers to make cloth for sale, and the famous 
shoemakers of Massachusetts commonly worked 
in groups. 

The mineral resources of the United States 
were practically unknown. The country seems to 
have produced iron enough for its simple needs, 
some coal, copper, lead, gold, silver, and sulphur. 
But we may say that mining was hardly practiced 
at all. 

The fisheries and the shipyards were great 
sources of wealth, especially for New England. 
The cod fishers numbered several hundred vessels 
and the whalers about forty. Thousands of citi- 
zens living along the seashore and the rivers fished 
more or less to add to the local food supply. The 
deep-sea fishermen exported a part of their catch, 
dried and salted. Yankee vessels sailed to all ports 
of the world and carried the greater part of the 



26 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

foreign commerce of the "United States. Flour, 
tobacco 3 rice, wheat, corn, dried fish, potash, indigo, 
and staves were the principal exports. Great 
Britain was the best customer, with the French 
West Indies next, and then the British West Indies. 
The principal imports came from the same coun- 
tries. Imports and exports practically balanced 
each other, at about twenty million dollars an- 
nually, or about five dollars a head. The great 
merchants owned ships and many of them, such as 
John Hancock of Boston, and Stephen Girard of 
Philadelphia, had grown very rich. 

Inland transportation depended on horses and 
oxen or boats. There were few good roads, some- 
times none at all save bridle paths and trails. The 
settlers along the river valleys used boats almost 
entirely. Stage-coaches made the journey from 
New York to Boston in four days in summer and 
in six in winter. Two days were required to go 
between New York and Philadelphia. Forty to 
fifty miles a day was the speed of the best coaches, 
provided always that they did not tumble into the 
ditch. In many parts of the country one must 
needs travel on horseback or on foot. 

Even the wealthiest Americans of those days had 
few or none of the articles which we regard today 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 27 

as necessities of life. The houses were provided 
with open fires — which, however cheerful, did not 
keep them warm — or else with Franklin's stoves. 
To strike a fire one must have the flint and tinder- 
box, for matches were unknown until about 1830. 
Candles made the darkness visible. There was 
neither plumbing nor running water. Food was 
cooked in the ashes or over an open fire. 

The farmer's tools were no less crude than his 
wife's. His plough had been little improved since 
the days of Rameses. He sowed his wheat by hand, 
out it with a sickle, flailed it out upon the floor, 
and laboriously winnowed away the chaff. 

In that same year, 1790, came a great boon and 
encouragement to inventors, the first Federal 
Patent Act, passed by Congress on the 10th of 
April. Every State had its own separate patent 
laws or regulations, as an inheritance from colonial 
days, but the Fathers of the Constitution had 
wisely provided that this function of government 
should be exercised by the nation. 1 The Patent 
Act, however, was for a time unpopular, and some 

*The Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) empowers 
Congress: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, 
by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the 
exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." 



28 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

States granted monopolies, particularly of trans* 
portation, until they were forbidden to do so by 
judicial decision. 

The first Patent Act provided that an examining 
board, consisting of the Secretary of State, the 
Secretary of War, and the Attorney-General, or 
any two of them, might grant a patent for four- 
teen years, if they deemed the invention useful 
and important. The patent itself was to be en- 
grossed and signed by the President, the Secretary 
of State, and the Attorney-General. And the cost 
was to be three dollars and seventy cents, plus 
the cost of copying the specifications at ten cents 
a sheet. 

The first inventor to avail himself of the ad- 
vantages of the new Patent Act was Samuel Hop- 
kins of Vermont, who received a patent on the 
31st of July for an improved method of "Making 
Pot and Pearl Ashes." The world knows nothing 
of this Samuel Hopkins, but the potash industry, 
which was evidently on his mind, was quite im- 
portant in his day. Potash, that is, crude potas- 
sium carbonate, useful in making soap and in the 
manufacture of glass, was made by leaching wood 
ashes and boiling down the lye. To produce a ton 
of potash, the trees on an acre of ground would be 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 29 

cut down and burned, the ashes leached, and the 
lye evaporated in great iron kettles. A ton of 
potash was worth about twenty-five dollars. Noth- 
ing could show more plainly the relative value of 
money and human labor in those early times. 

Two more patents were issued during the year 
1790. The second went to Joseph S. Sampson of 
Boston for a method of making candles, and the 
third to Oliver Evans, of whom we shall learn more 
presently, for an improvement in manufacturing 
flour and meal. The fourth patent was granted in 
1791 to Francis Baily of Philadelphia for making 
punches for types. Next Aaron Putnam of Med- 
ford, Massachusetts, thought that he could im- 
prove methods of distilling, and John Stone of 
Concord, Massachusetts, offered a new method of 
driving piles for bridges. And a versatile inventor, 
Samuel Mulliken of Philadelphia, received four 
patents in one day for threshing grain, cutting 
and polishing marble, raising a nap on cloth, and 
breaking hemp. 

Then carne improvements in making nails, in 
making bedsteads, in the manufacture of boats, 
and for propelling boats by cattle. On August 
26, 1791, James Rumsey, John Stevens, and John 
Fitch (all three will appear again in this narrative) 



30 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

took out patents on means of propelling boats. 
On the same day Nathan Read received one on a 
process for distilling alcohol. 

More than fifty patents were granted under the 
Patent Act of 1790, and mechanical devices were 
coming in so thick and fast that the department 
heads apparently found it inconvenient to hear 
applications. So the Act of 1790 was repealed. 
The second Patent Act (1793) provided that a 
patent should be granted as a matter of routine to 
any one who swore to the originality of his device 
and paid the sum of thirty dollars as a fee. No one 
except a citizen, however, could receive a patent. 
This act, with some amendments, remained in 
force until 1836, when the present Patent Office 
was organized with a rigorous and intricate system 
for examination of all claims in order to prevent 
interference. Protection of the property rights of 
inventors has been from the beginning of the 
nation a definite American policy, and to this 
policy may be ascribed innumerable inventions 
which have contributed to the greatness of Amer- 
ican industry and multiplied the world's comforts 
and conveniences. 

Under the second Patent Act came the most 
important invention yet offered, an invention 



FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES 31 

which was to affect generations then unborn. This 
was a machine for cleaning cotton and it was of- 
fered by a young Yankee schoolmaster, temporarily 
sojourning in the South, 



CHAPTER n 

ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 

The cotton industry is one of the most ancient. 
One or more of the many species of the cotton plant 
is indigenous to four continents, Asia, Africa, and 
the Americas, and the manufacture of the fiber 
into yarn and cloth seems to have developed in- 
dependently in each of them. We find mention of 
cotton in India fifteen hundred years before Christ. 
The East Indians, with only the crudest ma- 
chinery, spun yarn and wove cloth as diaphanous 
as the best appliances of the present day have been 
able to produce. 

Alexander the Great introduced the "vegetable 
wool" into Europe. The fable of the "vegetable 
lamb of Tartary " persisted almost down to modern 
times. The Moors cultivated cotton in Spain on 
an extensive scale, but after their expulsion the 
industry languished. The East India Company 
imported cotton fabrics into England early in the 

32 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 33 

seventeenth century, and these fabrics made their 
way in spite of the bitter opposition of the woolen 
interests, which were at times strong enough to 
have the use of cotton cloth prohibited by law. 
But when the Manchester spinners took up the 
manufacture of cotton, the fight was won. The 
Manchester spinners, however, used linen for their 
warp threads, for without machinery they could 
not spin threads sufficiently strong from the 
short-fibered Indian cotton. 

In the New World the Spanish explorers found 
cotton and cotton fabrics in use everywhere. Co- 
lumbus, Cortes, Pizarro, Magellan, and others 
speak of the various uses to which the fiber was 
put, and admired the striped awnings and the 
colored mantles made by the natives. It seems 
probable that cotton was in use in the New World 
quite as early as in India. 

The first English settlers in America found little 
or no cotton among the natives. But they soon 
began to import the fiber from the West Indies, 
whence came also the plant itself into the congenial 
soil and climate of the Southern colonies. During 
the colonial period, however, cotton never became 
the leading crop, hardly an important crop. Cot- 
ton could be grown profitably only where there 



34 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

was an abundant supply of exceedingly cheaj 
labor, and labor in America, white or black, was 
never and could never be as cheap as in India. 
American slaves could be much more profitably 
employed in the cultivation of rice and indigo. 

Three varieties of the cotton plant were grown 
in the South. Two kinds of the black-seed or long- 
staple variety thrived in the sea-islands and along 
the coast from Delaware to Georgia, but only the 
hardier and more prolific green-seed or short-staple 
cotton could be raised inland. The labor of cul- 
tivating and harvesting cotton of any kind was 
very great. The fiber, growing in bolls resembling 
a walnut in size and shape, had to be taken by hand 
from every boll, as it has to be today, for no satis- 
factory cotton harvester has yet been invented. 
But in the case of the green-seed or upland cotton, 
the only kind which could ever be cultivated ex- 
tensively in the South, there was another and more 
serious obstacle in the way, namely, the difficulty 
of separating the fiber from the seeds. No machine 
yet devised could perform this tedious and un- 
profitable task. For the black-seed or sea-island 
cotton, the churka, or roller gin, used in India from 
time immemorial, drawing the fiber slowly between 
a pair of rollers to push out the seeds, did the work 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 35 

imperfectly, but this churka was entirely useless 
for the green-seed variety, the fiber of which clung 
closely to the seed and would yield only to human 
hands. The quickest and most skillful pair of 
hands could separate only a pound or two of lint 
from its three pounds of seeds in an ordinary work- 
ing day. Usually the task was taken up at the end 
of the day, when the other work was done. The 
slaves sat round an overseer who shook the dozing 
and nudged the slow. It was also the regular task 
for a rainy day. It is not surprising., then, that 
cotton was scarce, that flax and wool in that day 
were the usual textiles, that in 1783 wool furnished 
about seventy-seven per cent, flax about eighteen 
per cent, and cotton only about five per cent 
of the clothing of the people of Europe and the 
United States. 

That series of inventions designed for the manu- 
facture of cloth, and destined to transform Great 
Britain, the whole world, in fact, was already com- 
pleted in Franklin's time. Beginning with the fly- 
ing shuttle of John Kay in 1738, followed by the 
spinning jenny of James Hargreaves in 1764, the 
water-frame of Richard Arkwright in 1769, and 
the mule of Samuel Crompton ten years later, 
machines were provided which could spin any 



36 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

quantity of fiber likely to be offered. And when, 
in 1787, Edmund Cartwright, clergyman and poet, 
invented the self-acting loom to which power might 
be applied, the series was complete. These inven- 
tions, supplementing the steam engine of James 
Watt, made the Industrial Revolution. They 
destroyed the system of cottage manufactures 
in England and gave birth to the great textile 
establishments of today. 

The mechanism for the production of cloth on a 
great scale was provided, if only the raw material 
could be found. 

The romance of cotton begins on a New England 
farm. It was on a farm in the town (township) of 
Westboro, in Worcester County, Massachusetts, 
in the year 1765, that Eli Wliitney, inventor of 
the cotton gin, was born. Eli's father was a man 
of substance and standing in the community, a 
mechanic as well as a farmer, who occupied his 
leisure in making articles for his neighbors. We 
are told that young Eli displayed a passion for 
tools almost as soon as he could walk, that he made 
a violin at the age of twelve and about the same 
time took his father's watch to pieces surrepti- 
tiously and succeeded in putting it together again 
so successfully as to escape detection. He was able 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 37 

to make a table knife to match the others of a 
broken set. As a boy of fifteen or sixteen, during 
the War of Independence, he was supplying the 
neighborhood with hand-made nails and various 
other articles. Though he had not been a par- 
ticularly apt pupil in the schools, he conceived the 
ambition of attending college; and so, after teach- 
ing several winters in rural schools, he went to Yale. 
He appears to have paid his own way through 
college by the exercise of his mechanical talents, 
He is said to have mended for the college some im- 
ported apparatus which otherwise would have had 
to go to the old country for repairs. "There was a 
good mechanic spoiled when you came to college, " 
he was told by a carpenter in the town. There was 
no " Sheff " at Yale in those days to give young men 
like Whitney scientific instruction ; so, defying the 
bent of his abilities, Eli went on with his academic 
studies, graduated in 1792, at the age of twenty- 
seven, and decided to be a teacher or perhaps 
a lawyer. 

Like so many young New Englanders of the 
time, Whitney sought employment in the South. 
Having received the promise of a position in South 
Carolina, he embarked at New York, soon after 
bis graduation, on a sailing vessel bound for 



38 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Savannah. On board lie met the widow of General 
Nathanael Greene of Revolutionary lame, and this 
iady invited him to visit her plantation at Mul- 
berry Grove, near Savannah. What happened 
then is best told by Eli Whitney himself, in a letter 
to his father, written at New Haven, after his re- 
turn from the South some months later, though the 
spelling master will probably send Whitney to the 
foot of the class: 

New Haven, Sept. 11th, 1793. 

, . . I went from N. York with the family of the 
late Major General Greene to Georgia, I went imme- 
diately with the family to their Plantation about 
twelve miles from Savannah with an expectation of 
spending four or five days and then proceed into Caro- 
lina to take the school as I have mentioned in former 
letters. During this time I heard much said of the 
extreme difficulty of ginning Cotton, that is, seperat- 
ing it from its seeds. There were a number of very 
respectable Gentlemen at Mrs. Greene's who all agreed 
that if a machine could be invented which would clean 
the cotton with expedition, it would be a great thing 
both to the Country and to the inventor. I invoiun- 
tarily happened to be thinking on the subject and 
struck out a plan of a Machine in my mind, which I 
communicated to Miller (who is agent to the Executors 
of Genl. Greene and resides in the family, a man of 
respectibility and property), he was pleased with the 
Plan and said if I would pursue it and try an experi- 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 39 

ment to see if it would answer, he wouid be at the 
whole expense, I should loose nothing but my time, 
and if I succeeded we would share the profits. Pre- 
vious to this I found I was like to be disappointed in 
my school, that is, instead of a hundred, I found I 
could get only fifty Guineas a year. I however held 
the refusal of the school untill I tried some experiments. 
In about ten Days I made a little model, for which I 
was offered, if I would give up all right and title to it, 
a Hundred Guineas. I concluded to relinquish my 
school and turn my attention to perfecting the Ma- 
chine. I made one before I came away which required 
the labor of one man to turn it and with which one man 
will clean ten times as much cotton as he can in any 
other way before known and also cleanse it much better 
than in the usual mode. This machine may be turned 
by water or with a horse, with the greatest ease, and 
one man and a horse will do more than fifty men with 
the old machines. It makes the labor fifty times less, 
without throwing any class of People out of business. 
I returned to the Northward for the purpose of 
having a machine made on a large scale and obtaining 
a Patent for the invintion. I went to Philadelphia 1 
soon after I arrived, made myself acquainted with the 
steps necessary to obtain a Patent, took several of the 
steps and the Secretary of State Mr. Jefferson agreed 
to send the Pattent to me as soon it could be made out 
— so that I apprehended no difficulty in obtaining 
the Patent — Since I have been here I have em- 
ployed several workmen in making machines and as 
soon as my business is such that I can leave it a few 

1 Then the national capital. 



40 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

days, I shall come to Westboro'. I think it is probable 
I shall go to Philadelphia again before I come to West- 
boro*, and when I do come I shall be able to stay but 
few days, I am certain I can obtain a patent in Eng- 
land. As soon as I have got a Patent in America I 
shall go with the machine which I am now making, to 
Georgia, where I shall stay a few weeks to see it at 
work. From thence I expect to go to England, where I 
shall probably continue two or three years. How 
advantageous this business will eventually prove to 
me, I cannot say. It is generally said by those who 
know anything about it, that I shall make a Fortune 
by it. I have no expectation that I shall make an in- 
dependent fortune by it, but think I had better pursue 
it than any other business into which I can enter. 
Something which cannot be foreseen may frustrate my 
expectations and defeat my Plan ; but I am now so sure 
of success that ten thousand dollars, if I saw the money 
counted out to me, would not tempt me to give up my 
right and relinquish the object. I wish you, sir, not to 
show this letter nor communicate anything of its con- 
tents to any body except My Brothers and Sister, en- 
joining it on them to keep the whole a profound secret. l 

The invention, however, could not be kept "a 
profound secret," for knowledge of it was already 
out in the cotton country. Whitney's hostess, 
Mrs. Greene, had shown the wonderful machine to 

1 Hammond, "Correspondence of Eli Whitney," American 
Historical Review, vol. Ill, p. 99. The other citations in this 
chapter are from the same source, unless otherwise stated. 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 41 

some friends, who soon spread the glad tidings, and 
planters, near and far, had come to Mulberry 
Grove to see it. The machine was of very simple 
construction; any blacksmith or wheelwright, 
knowing the principle of the design, could make 
one. Even before Whitney could obtain his patent, 
cotton gins based on his were being manufactured 
end used. 

WTiitney received his patent in March, 1794, and 
entered on his new work with enthusiasm. His 
partner, Phiiieas Miller, was a cultivated New Eng- 
land gentleman, a graduate of Yale College, who, 
like WTiitney, had sought his fortune as a teacher 
in the South. He had been a tutor in the Greene 
household and on General Greene's death had 
taken over the management of his estates. He 
afterwards married Mrs. Greene. The partners 
decided to manufacture the machines in New 
Haven, Whitney to give his time to the production, 
Miller to furnish the capital and attend to the 
firm's interests in the South. 

At the outset the partners blundered seriously in 
their plan for commercializing the invention. They 
planned to buy seed cotton and clean it themselves; 
also to clean cotton for the planters on the familiar 
toll system, as in grinding grain, taking a toll of 



42 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

one pound of cotton out of every three. "Whit- 
ney's plan in Georgia," says a recent writer, "as 
shown by his letters and other evidence, was to 
own all the gins and gin all the cotton made in the 
country, It is but human nature that this sort of 
monopoly should be odious to any community.'' 1 
Miller appears to have calculated that the planters 
could afford to pay for the use of the new invention 
about one-half of all the profits they derived from 
its use. An equal division, between the owners of 
the invention on the one hand and the cotton 
growers on the other, of all the superadded wealth 
arising from the invention, seemed to him fair. 
Apparently the full meaning of such an arrange- 
ment did not enter his mind. Perhaps Miller and 
Whitney did not see at first that the new inven- 
tion would cause a veritable industrial revolution, 
or that the system they planned, if it could be made 
effective, would make them absolute masters of 
the cotton country, with the most stupendous 
monopoly in the world. Nor do they appear to 
have realized that, considering the simple construc- 
tion of their machine and the loose operation of the 
patent law at that time, the planters of the South 
would never submit to so great a tribute as they 

1 Tompkins, Cotton and Cotton Oil, p. 26. 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 43 

proposed to exact. Their attempt in the first in- 
stance to set up an unfair monopoly brought them 
presently into a sea of troubles, which they never 
passed out of, even when they afterwards changed 
their tack and offered to sell the machines with a 
license, or a license alone, at a reasonable price. 

Misfortune pursued the partners from the be- 
ginning. Whitney writes to his father from New 
Haven in May, 1794, that his machines in Georgia 
are working well, but that he apprehends great 
difficulty in manufacturing them as fast as they are 
needed. In March of the following year he writes 
again, saying that his factory in New Haven has 
been destroyed by fire: "When I returned home 
from N. York I found my property all in ashes! 
My shop, all my tools, material and work equal to 
twenty finished cotton machines all gone. The 
manner in which it took fire is altogether unac- 
countable." Besides, the partners found them- 
selves in distress for lack of capital. Then word 
came from England that the Manchester spinners 
had found the ginned cotton to contain knots, and 
this was sufficient to start the rumor throughout 
the South that Whitney's gin injured the cotton 
fiber and that cotton cleaned by them was worth- 
less. It was two years before this ghost was laid. 



44 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Meanwhile Whitney's patent was being infringed 
on every hand. "They continue to clean great 
quantities of cotton with Lyon's Gin and sell it 
advantageously while the Patent ginned cotton is 
run down as good for nothing," writes Miller to 
Whitney in September, 1797. Miller and Whitney 
brought suits against the infringers but they could 
obtain no redress in the courts. 

Whitney's attitude of mind during these troubles 
is shown in his letters. He says the statement that 
his machines injure the cotton is false, that the 
source of the trouble is bad cotton, which he ven- 
tures to think is improved fifty per cent by the use 
of his gin, and that it is absurd to say that the 
cotton could be injured in any way in the process of 
cleaning. "I think," he says, writing to Miller, 
"you will be able to convince the candid that this 
is quite a mistaken notion and them that will not 
believe may be damn'd." Again, writing later to 
his friend Josiah Stebbins in New England: "I 
have a set of the most Depraved villains to combat 
and I might almost as well go to Hell in search of 
Happiness as apply to a Georgia Court for Justice." 
And again: "You know I always believed in the 
* Depravity of human nature. ' T thought I was long 
ago sufficiently * grounded and stablished ' in this 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 45 

Doctrine. But God Almighty is continually pour- 
ing down cataracts of testimony upon me to con- 
vince me of this fact. 'Lord I believe, help thou,' 
not 'mine unbelief,' but me to overcome the ras- 
cality of mankind." His partner Miller, on the 
other hand, is inclined to be more philosophical 
and suggests to Whitney that "we take the affairs 
of this world patiently and that the little dust 
which we may stir up about cotton may after all 
not make much difference with our successors one 
hundred, much less one thousand years hence." 
Miller, however, finally concluded that, "the pros- 
pect of making anything by ginning in this State 
[Georgia! is at an end. Surreptitious gins are being 
erected in every part of the country; and the jury- 
men at Augusta have come to an understanding 
among themselves, that they will never give a 
verdict in our favor, let the merits of the case be 
as they may." 1 

Miller and Whitney were somewhat more for- 
tunate in other States than in Georgia though they 
nowhere received from the cotton gin enough to 
compensate them for their time and trouble nor 
more than a pitiable fraction of the great value of 
their invention. South Carolina, in 1801, voted 

1 Cited in Roe, English and American Tool Builders, p. 153. 



46 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

them fifty thousand dollars for their patent rights, 
twenty thousand dollars to be paid down and the 
remainder in three annual payments of ten thou- 
sand dollars each. "We get but a song for it," 
wrote Whitney, "in comparison with the worth of 
the thing, but it is securing something " Why the 
partners were willing to take so small a sum was 
later explained by Miller. They valued the rights 
for South Carolina at two hundred thousand dol- 
lars, but, since the patent law was being infringed 
with impunity, they were willing to take half that 
amount; "and had flattered themselves," wrote 
Miller, "that a sense of dignity and justice on the 
part of that honorable body [the Legislature] would 
not have countenanced an offer of a less sum than 
one hundred thousand dollars. Finding themselves, 
however, to be mistaken in this opinion, and enter- 
taining a belief that the failure of such negotiation, 
after it commenced, would have a tendency to 
diminish the prospect, already doubtful, of enforc- 
ing the Patent Law, it was c ncluded to be best 
under existing circumstances to accept the very in- 
adequate sum of fifty thousand dollars offered by 
the Legislature and thereby relinquish and entire- 
ly abandon three-fourths of the actual value of 
the property." 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 47 

But even the fifty thousand dollar? was not 
collected without difficulty. South Carolina sus- 
pended the contract, after paying twenty thousand 
dollars, and sued Miller and Whitney for recovery 
of the sum paid, on the ground that the partners 
had not complied with the conditions. WTiitney 
succeeded, in 1805, in getting the Legislature to 
reinstate the contract and pay him the i emainder 
of the money. Miller, discouraged and broken by 
the long struggle, had died in the meantime. 

The following passage from a letter written by 
Whitney in February, 1805, to Josiah Stebbins. 
gives Whitney's views as to the treatment he 
had received at the hands of the authorities. He 
is writing from the residence of a friend near 
Orangeburg, South Carolina. 

Tne principal object of my present excursion to this 
Country was to get this business set right; which I 
have so far effected as to induce the Legislature of this 
State to recind all their former Suspending Laws and 
resolutions, to agree once more to pay the sum of 
30,000 Dollars which was due and make the necessary 
appropriations for that purpose. I have as yet how- 
ever obtained but a small part of this payment. The 
residue is promised me in July next. Thus you see my 
recompense of reward is as the land of Canaan was to 
the Jews, resting a long while in promise. If the 
Nations with whom I have to contend are not as 



48 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

numerous as those opposed to the Israelites, they are 
certainly much greater Heathens, having their hearts 
hardened and their understanding blinded, to make, 
propagate and believe all manner of lies. Verily, 
Stebbins, I have had much vexation of spirit in this 
business. I shall spend forty thousand dollars to ob- 
tain thirty, and it will all end in vanity at last. A 
contract had been made with the State of Tennessee 
which now hangs suspended. Two attempts have been 
made to induce the State of No. Carolina to recind 
their Contract, neither of which have succeeded. Thus 
you see Brother Steb. Sovreign and Independent 
States warped by interest will be rogues and misled by 
Demagogues will be fools. They have spent much 
time, money and Credit, to avoid giving me a small 
compensation, for that which to them is worth millions. 



Meanwhile North Carolina had agreed to buy 
the rights for the State on terms that yielded Whit- 
ney about thirty thousand dollars, and it is es- 
timated that he received about ten thousand dol- 
lars from Tennessee, making his receipts in all 
about ninety thousand dollars, before deducting 
costs of litigation and other losses. The cotton gin 
was not profitable to its inventor. And yet no in- 
vention in history ever so suddenly transformed 
an industry and created enormous wealth. Eight 
years before Whitney's invention, eight bales of 
cotton, landed at Liverpool, were seized on the 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 49 

ground that so large a quantity of cotton could not 
have been produced in the United States. The 
year before that invention the United States ex- 
ported less than one hundred and forty thousand 
pounds of cotton; the year after it, nearly half a 
million pounds ; the next year over a million and a 
half; a year later still, over six million; by 1800, 
nearly eighteen million pounds a year. And by 
1845 the United States was producing seven- 
eighths of the world's cotton. Today the United 
States produces six to eight billion pounds of cot- 
ton annually, and ninety -nine per cent of this is 
the upland or green-seed cotton, which is cleaned 
on the Whitney type of gin and was first made 
commercially available by Whitney's invention. ■ 

More than half of this enormous crop is still 
exported in spite of the great demand at home. 
Cotton became and has continued to be the great- 
est single export of the United States. In ordi- 
nary years its value is greater than the combined 
value of the three next largest exports. It is on 
cotton that the United States has depended for the 
payment of its trade balance to Europe. 

Other momentous results followed on the inven- 
tion of the cotton gin. In 1793 slavery seemed a 

1 Roe, English and American Tool Builders, pp. 150-51 

4 



50 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

dying institution, North and South. Conditions 
of soil and climate made slavery unprofitable in the 
North. On many of the indigo, rice, and tobacco 
plantations in the South there were more slaves 
than could be profitably employed, and many 
planters were thinking of emancipating their slaves, 
when along came this simple but wonderful ma- 
chine and with it the vision of great riches in cotton; 
for while slaves could not earn their keep separat- 
ing the cotton from its seeds by hand, they could 
earn enormous profits in the fields, once the diffi- 
culty of extracting the seeds was solved. Slaves 
were no longer a liability but an asset. The price 
of "field hands" rose, and continued to rise. If 
the worn-out lands of the seaboard no longer 
afforded opportunity for profitable employment, 
the rich new lands of the Southwest called for 
laborers, and yet more laborers. Taking slaves 
with them, younger sons pushed out into the wilder- 
ness, became possessed of great tracts of fertile 
land, and built up larger plantations than those 
upon which they had been born. Cotton became 
King of the South. 

The supposed economic necessity of slave labor 
led great men to defend slavery, and politics in the 
South became largely the defense of slavery against 



ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN 51 

the aggression, real or fancied, of the free North. 
The rift between the sections became a chasm. 
Then came the War of Secession. 

Though Miller was dead, Whitney carried on 
the fight for his rights in Georgia. His difficulties 
were increased by a patent which the Government 
at Philadelphia issued in May, 1796, to Hogden 
Holmes, a mechanic of Augusta, for an improve- 
ment in the cotton gin. The Holmes machines 
were soon in common use, and it was against the 
users of these that many of the suits for infringe- 
ment were brought. Suit after suit ran its course 
in the Georgia courts, without a single decision 
in the inventor's favor. At length, however, 
in December, 1806, the validity of Whitney's 
patent was finally determined by decision of the 
United States Circuit Court in Georgia. Whit- 
ney asked for a perpetual injunction against 
the Holmes machine, and the court, finding that 
his invention was basic, granted him all that 
he asked. 

By this time, however, the life of the patent had 
nearly run its course. Whitney applied to Con- 
gress for a renewal, but, in spite of all his argu- 
ments and a favorable committee report, the op- 
position from the cotton States proved too strong^ 



52 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

and his application was denied. Whitney now had 
other interests. He was a, great manufacturer of 
firearms, at New Haven, and as such we shall meet 
him again in a later chapter, 



CHAPTER m 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 



For the beginnings of the enslavement of steam, 
that mighty giant whose work has changed the 
world we live in, we must return to the times of 
Benjamin Franklin. James Watt, the accredited 
father of the modern steam engine, was a con- 
temporary of Franklin, and his engine was twenty- 
one years old when Franklin died. The discovery 
that steam could be harnessed and made to work 
is not, of course, credited to James Watt. The 
precise origin of that discovery is unknown. The 
ancient Greeks had steam engines of a sort, and 
steam engines of another sort were pumping water 
out of mines in England when James Watt was 
born. James Watt, however, invented and applied 
the first effective means by which steam came to 
serve mankind. And so the modern steam engine 
begins with him. 

The story is old, of how this Scottish boy, James 



54 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Watt, sat on the hearth in his mother's cottage, 
intently watching the steam rising from the mouth 
of the tea kettle, and of the great role which this 
boy afterwards assumed in the mechanical world. 
It was in 1763, when he was twenty-eight and 
had the appointment of mathematical-instrument 
maker to the University of Glasgow, that a model 
of Newcomen's steam pumping engine was brought 
into his shop for repairs. One can perhaps imagine 
the feelings with which James Watt, interested 
from his youth in mechanical and scientific instru- 
ments, particularly those which dealt with steam, 
regarded this Newcomen engine. Now his interest 
was vastly quickened. He set up the model and 
operated it, noticed how the alternate heating and 
cooling of its cylinder wasted power, and concluded, 
after some weeks of experiment, that, in order to 
make the engine practicable, the cylinder must be 
kept hot, "always as hot as the steam which en- 
tered it." Yet in order to condense the steam there 
must be a cooling of the vessel. The problem was 
to reconcile these two conditions. 

At length the pregnant idea occurred to him 
— the idea of the separate condenser. It came 
to him on a Sunday afternoon in 1765, as he 
walked across Glasgow Green. If the steam were 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 55 

condensed in a vessel separate from the cylinder, 
it would be quite possible to keep the condensing 
vessel cool and the cylinder hot at the same time. 
Next morning Watt began to put his scheme to the 
test and found it practicable. He developed other 
Ideas and applied them. So at last was born a 
steam engine that would work and multiply man's 
energies a thousandfold. 

After one or two disastrous business experiences, 
such as fall to the lot of many great inventors, 
perhaps to test their perseverance, Watt associated 
himself with Matthew Boulton, a man of capital 
and of enterprise, owner of the Soho Engineering 
Works, near Birmingham. The firm of Boulton 
and Watt became famous, and James Watt lived 
till August 19, 1819 — lived to see his steam engine 
the greatest single factor in the new industrial era 
that had dawned for English-speaking folk. 

Boulton and Watt, however, though they were 

the pioneers, were by no means alone in the de- 

: velopment of the steam engine. Soon there were 

I rivals in the field with new types of engines. One 

of these was Richard Trevithick in England; an- 

| other was Oliver Evans of Philadelphia. Both 

! Trevjthick and Evans invented the high-pressure 

engine. Evans appears to have applied the high- 



56 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

pressure principle before Trevithick, and it has 
been said that Trevithick borrowed it from Evans, 
but Evans himself never said so, and it is more 
likely that each of these inventors worked it out 
independently. Watt introduced his steam to the 
cylinder at only slightly more than atmospheric 
pressure and clung tenaciously to the low-pressure 
theory all his life. Boulton and Watt, indeed, 
aroused by Trevithick's experiments in high-pres- 
sure engines, sought to have Parliament pass an 
act forbidding high pressure on the ground that the 
lives of the public were endangered. Watt lived 
long enough, however, to see the high-pressure 
steam engine come into general favor s not only in 
America but even in his own conservative country. 
Less sudden, less dramatic, than that of the 
cotton gin, was the entrance of the steam engine 
on the American industrial stage, but not less 
momentous. The actions and reactions of steam 
in America provide the theme for an Iliad which 
some American Homer may one day write. They 
include the epic of the coal in the Pennsylvania 
hills, the epic of the ore, the epic of the railroad, 
the epic of the great city; and, in general, the sub- 
jugation of a continental wilderness to the service 
of a vast civilization. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 57 

The vital need of better transportation was 
uppermost in the thoughts of many Americans. 
It was seen that there could be no nation al unity 
in a country so far flung without means of easy 
intercourse between one group of Americans and 
another. The highroads of the new country were, 
for the most part, difficult even for the man on 
horseback, and worse for those who must travel by 
coach or post-chaise. Inland from the coast and 
away from the great rivers there were no roads of 
any sort; nothing but trails. Highways were essen- 
tial, not only for the permanent unity of the United 
States, but to make available the wonderful riches 
of the inland country, across the Appalachian 
barrier and around the Great Lakes, into which 
American pioneers had already made their way. 

Those immemorial pathways, the great rivers, 
were the main avenues of traffic with the interior. 
So, of course, when men thought of improving 
transportation, they had in mind chiefly transpor- 
tation by water; and that is why the earliest efforts 
cf American inventors were applied to the means 
of improving traffic and travel by water and not 
by land. 

The first men to spend their time in trying to 
apply steam power to the propulsion of a boat were 



58 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

contemporaries of Benjamin Franklin. Those who 
worked without Watt's engine could hardly suc- 
ceed. One of the earliest of these was William 
Henry of Pennsylvania. Henry, in 1763, had the 
idea of applying power to paddle wheels, and con- 
structed a boat, but his boat sank, and no result 
followed, unless it may be that John Fitch and 
Robert Fulton, both of whom were visitors at 
Henry's house, received some suggestions from 
him. James Ramsey of Maryland began experi- 
ments as early as 1~74 and by 1786 had a boat that 
made four miles an hour against the current of 
the Potomac. 

The most interesting of these early and unsuc- 
cessful inventors is John Fitch, who was a Connec- 
ticut clockmaker living in Philadelphia. He w T as 
eccentric and irregular in his habits and quite igno- 
rant of the steam engine. But he conceived the 
idea of a steamboat and set to work to make one. 
The record of Fitch's life is something of a tragedy. 
At the best he was an unhappy man and was 
always close to poverty. As a young man he had 
left his family because of unhappy domestic rela- 
tions with his wife. One may find in the record of 
his undertakings which he left in the Philadelphia 
Library, to be opened thirty years after its receipt. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 59 

these words: "I know of nothing so perplexing 
and vexatious to a man of feelings as a turbulent 
Wife and Steamboat building." But in spite of all 
his difficulties Fitch produced a steamboat, which 
plied regularly on the Delaware for several years 
and carried passengers. "We reigned Lord High 
Admirals of the Delaware ; and no other boat in the 
River could hold its way with us," he wrote. 
"Thus has been effected by little Johnny Fitch and 
Harry Voight [one of his associates] one of the 
greatest and most useful arts that has ever been 
introduced into the world ; and although the world 
and my country does not thank me for it, yet it 
gives me heartfelt satisfaction." The "Lord High 
Admirals of the Delaware," however, did not 
reign long. The steamboat needed improvement 
to make it pay; its backers lost patience and faith, 
and the inventor gave up the fight and retired into 
the fastnesses of the Kentucky wilderness, where 
he died. 

The next inventor to struggle with the problem 
of the steamboat, with any approach to success, 
was John Stevens of Hoboken. His life was cast 
in a vastly different environment from that of 
John Fitch. He was a rich man, a man of family 
and of influence. His father's house — afterwards 



60 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

his own — at 7 Broadway, facing Bowling Green 
— was one of the mansions of early New York, and 
his own summer residence on Castle Point, Ho- 
boken, just across the Hudson, was one of the land- 
marks of the great river. For many years John 
Stevens crossed that river; most often in an open 
boat propelled by sail or by men at the oars. 
Being naturally of a mechanical turn, he sought to 
make the crossing easier. To his library were 
coming the prints that told of James Watt and the 
steam engine in England, and John Fitch's boat 
had interested him. 

Robert Fulton's Clermont, of which we shall 
speak presently, was undoubtedly the pioneer of 
practicable steamboats. But the Phoenix, built by 
John Stevens, followed close on the Clermont. 
And its engines were built in America, while those 
of the Clermont had been imported from England. 
Moreover, in June, 1808, the Phoenix stood to sea, 
and made the first ocean voyage in the history of 
steam navigation. Because of a monopoly of the 
Hudson, which the New York Legislature had 
granted to Livingston and Fulton, Stevens was 
compelled to send his ship to the Delaware. Hence 
the trip out into the waters of the Atlantic, a jour- 
ney that was not undertaken without trepidation. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 61 

But, despite the fact that a great storm arose, the 
Phoenix made the trip in safety; and continued for 
many years thereafter to ply the Delaware between 
Philadelphia and Trenton. 

Robert Fulton, like many and many another 
great inventor, from Leonardo da Vinci down to 
the present time, was also an artist. He was born 
November 14, 1765, at Little Britain, Lancaster 
County, Pennsylvania, of that stock which is so 
often miscalled "Scotch-Irish." He was only a 
child when his father died, leaving behind him a 
son who seems to have been much more interested 
in his own ideas than in his schoolbooks. Even in 
his childhood Robert showed his mechanical abil- 
ity. There was a firm of noted gunsmiths in Lan- 
caster, in whose shops he made himself at home 
and became expert in the use of tools. At the age 
of fourteen he applied his ingenuity to a heavy fish- 
ing boat and equipped it with paddle-wheels, which 
were turned by a crank, thus greatly lightening the 
labor of moving it. 

At the age of seventeen young Fulton moved to 
Philadelphia and set up as a portrait painter. 
Some of the miniatures which he painted at this 
time are said to be very good. He worked hard, 
made many good friends, including Benjamin 



m THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Franklin, and succeeded financially. He deter- 
mined to go to Europe to study — if possible under 
his fellow Pennsylvania n, Benjamin West, then 
rising into fame in London. The West and the 
Fulton families had been intimate, and Fulton 
hoped that West would take him as a pupil. First 
buying a farm for his mother with a part of his 
savings, he sailed for England in 1786, with forty 
guineas in his pocket. West received him not only 
«as a pupil but as a guest in his house and intro- 
duced him to many of his friends. Again Fulton 
succeeded, and in 1791 two of his portraits were 
exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the Royal 
Society of British Artists hung four paintings 
by him. 

Then came the commission which changed the 
course of Fulton's life. His work had attracted the 
notice of Viscount Courtenay, later Earl of Devon, 
and he was invited to Devonshire to paint that 
nobleman's portrait. Here he met Francis, third 
Duke of Bridgewater, the father of the English 
canal system, and his hardly less famous engineer, 
James Brindley, and also Earl Stanhope, a restless, 
inquiring spirit. Fulton the mechanic presently 
began to dominate Fulton the artist. He studied 
canals, invented a means of sawing marble in the 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 63 

quarries, improved the wheel for spinning flax, 
invented a machine for making rope, and a method 
of raising canal boats by inclined planes instead of 
locks. What money he made from these inven- 
tions we do not know, but somewhat later (1796) he 
speaks hopefully of an improvement in tanning. 
This same year he published a pamphlet entitled 
A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Naviga- 
tion, copies of which were sent to Napoleon and 
President Washington. 

Fulton went tc France in 1797. To earn money 
he painted several portraits and a panorama of the 
Burning of Moscow. This panorama, covering the 
walls of a circular hall built especially for it, be- 
came very popular, and Fulton painted another. 
In Paris he formed a warm friendship with that 
singular American, Joel Barlow, soldier, poet, specu- 
lator, and diplomatist, and his wife, and for seven 
years lived in their house. 

The long and complicated story of Fulton's 
sudden interest in torpedoes and submarine boats, 
his dealings with the Directory and Napoleon and 
with the British Admiralty does not belong here. 
His experiments and his negotiations with the 
two Governments occupied the greater part of his 
time for the years between 1797 and 1806. His 



64 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

expressed purpose was to make an engine of war so 
terrible that war would automatically be abolished. 
The world, however, was not ready for diving boats 
and torpedoes, nor yet for the end of war, and his 
efforts had no tangible results. 1 

During all the years after 1793, at least, and per- 
haps earlier, the idea of the steamboat had seldom 
been out of his mind, but lack of funds and the 
greater urgency, as he thought, of the submarine 
prevented him from working seriously upon it. 
In 1801, however, Robert R. Livingston came to 
France as American Minister. Livingston had 
already made some unsuccessful experiments with 
the steamboat in the United States, and, in 1798, 
had received the monopoly of steam navigation on 
the waters of New York for twenty years, provided 
that he produced a vessel within twelve months 
able to steam four miles an hour. This grant had, 
of course, been forfeited, but might be renewed, 
Livingston thought. 

Fulton and Livingston met, probably at Bar- 
low's house, and, in 1802, drew up an agreement to 
construct a steamboat to ply between New York 

1 The submarine was the invention of David Bushnell, a Con- 
necticut Yankee, whose "American Turtle" blew up at least one 
British vessel in the War of Independence and created much 
consternation among the King's ships in American waters. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 65 

and Albany. Livingston agreed to advance five 
hundred dollars for experimentation in Europe. 
In this same year Fulton built a model and tested 
different means of propulsion, giving "the prefer- 
ence to a wheel on each side of the model." 1 The 
boat was built on the Seine, but proved too frail 
for the borrowed engine. A second boat was 
tried in August, 1803, and moved, though at a 
disappointingly slow rate of speed. 

Just at this time Fulton wrote ordering an engine 
from Boulton and Watt to be transported to 
America. The order was at first refused, as it was 
then the shortsighted policy of the British Govern- 
ment to maintain a monopoly of mechanical con- 
trivances. Permission to export was given the next 
year, however, and the engine was shipped in 1805. 
It lay for some time in the New York Customs 
House. Meanwhile Fulton had studied the Watt 
mgine on Symington's steamboat, the Charlotte 
Dundas, on the Forth and Clyde Canal, and 
Livingston had been granted a renewal of his 
monopoly of the waters of New York. 

Fulton arrived at New York in 1806 and began 
the construction of the Clermont, so named after 

1 Fulton to Barlow, quoted in Sutcliffe, Robert Fulton and the 
Clermont, p. 124. 



66 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Livingston's estate on the Hudson. The building 
was done on the East River. The boat excited the 
jeers of passers-by, who called it "Fulton's Folly." 
On Monday, August 17, 1807, the memorable first 
voyage was begun. Carrying a party of invited 
guests, the Clermont steamed off at one o'clock. 
Past the towns and villages along the Hudson, the 
boat moved steadily, black smoke rolling from her 
stack. Pine wood was the fuel. During the night, 
the sparks pouring from her funnel, the clanking of 
her machinery, and the splashing of the paddles 
frightened the animals in the woods and the occu- 
pants of the scattered houses along the banks. At 
one o'clock Tuesday the boat arrived at Cler- 
mont, 110 miles from New York. After spending 
the night at Clermont, the voyage was resumed 
on Wednesday. Albany, forty miles away, was 
reached in eight hours, making a record of 150 
miles in thirty-two hours. Returning to New York, 
the distance was covered in thirty hours. The 
steamboat was a success. 

The boat was then laid up for two weeks while 
the cabins were boarded in, a roof built over the 
engine, and coverings placed over the paddle- 
wheels to catch the spray — all under Fulton's eye. 
Then the Clermont began regular trips to Albany, 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 67 

carrying sometimes a hundred passengers, making 
the round trip every four days, and continued un- 
til floating ice marked the end of navigation for 
the winter. 

Why had Fulton succeeded where others had 
failed? There was nothing new in his boat. Every 
essential feature of the Clermont had been an- 
ticipated by one or other of the numerous experi- 
menters before him. The answer seems to be 
that he was a better engineer than any of them. 
He had calculated proportions, and his hull and 
his engine were in relation. Then too, he had 
one of Watt's engines, undoubtedly the best at 
the time, and the unwavering support of Robert 
Livingston. 

Fulton's restless mind was never still, but he 
did not tu*n capriciously from one idea to another. 
Though never satisfied, his new ideas were tested 
scientifically and the results carefully written 
down. Some of his notebooks read almost like 
geometrical demonstrations; and his drawings and 
plans were beautifully executed. Before his death 
in 1815 he had constructed or planned sixteen or 
seventeen boats, including boats for the Hudson, 
Potomac, and Mississippi rivers, for the Neva in 
Russia, and a steam vessel of war for the United 



68 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

States, He was a member of the commission on the 
Erie Canal, though he did not live to see that 
enterprise begun. 

The mighty influence of the steamboat in the ! 
development of inland America is told elsewhere in 
this Series. 1 The steamboat has long since grown 
to greatness, but it is well to remember that the 
true ancestor of the magnificent leviathan of our 
own day is the Clermont of Robert Fulton. 

The world today is on the eve of another great 
development in transportation, quite as revolu- 
tionary as any that have preceded. How soon will 
it take place? How long before Kipling's vision in 
The Night Mail becomes a full reality? How long 
before the air craft comes to play a great role in 
the world's transportation? We cannot tell. But, 
after looking at the nearest parallel in the facts of 
history, each of us may make his own guess. The 
airship appears now to be much farther advanced 
than the steamboat was for many years after 
Robert Fulton died. Already we have seen men 
ride the wind above the sea from the New World 
to the Old. Already United States mails are regu- 
larly carried through the air from the Atlantic to 

1 Archer B. Hulbert, The Paths of Inland Commerce. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 69 

the Golden Gate. It was twelve years after the 
birth of Fulton's Clermont, and four years after the 
inventor's death, before any vessel tried to cross 
the Atlantic under steam. This was in 1819, 
when the sailing packet Savannah, equipped with a 
ninety horse-power horizontal engine and paddle- 
wheels, crossed from Savannah to Liverpool in 
twenty-five days, during eighteen of which she 
used steam power. The following year, however, 
the engine was taken out of the craft. And it was 
not until 1833 that a real steamship crossed the 
Atlantic. This time it was the Royal William, 
which made a successful passage from Quebec to 
London. Four years more passed before the Great 
Western was launched at Bristol, the first steamship 
to be especially designed for transatlantic service, 
and the era of great steam liners began. 

If steam could be made to drive a boat on the 
water, why not a wagon on the land? 

History, seeking origins, often has difficulty 
when it attempts to discover the precise origin of 
an idea. "It frequently happens," said Oliver 
Evans, "that two persons, reasoning right on a 
mechanical subject, think alike and invent the 
same thing without any communication with each 



70 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

other/' 1 It is certain, however, that one of the 
first, if not the first, protagonist of the locomotive 
in America was the same Oliver Evans, a truly 
great inventor for whom the world was not quite 
ready. The world has forgotten him. But he was 
the first engine builder in America, and one of the 
best of his day. He gave to his countrymen the 
high-pressure steam engine and new machinery for 
manufacturing flour that was not superseded for 
a hundred years. 

Evans was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a 
wheelwright. He was a thoughtful, studious boy, who 
devoured eagerly the few books to which he had access, 
even by the light of a fire of shavings, when denied a 
candle by his parsimonious master. He says that in 
1772, when only seventeen years old, he began to con- 
trive some method of propelling land carriages by 
other means than animal power; and that he thought 
of a variety of devices, such as using the force of the 
wind and treadles worked by men; but as they were 
evidently inadequate, was about to give up the prob- 
lem as unsolvable for want of a suitable source of 
power, when he heard that some neighboring black- 
smith's boys had stopped up the touch-hole of a gun 
barrel, put in some water, rammed down a tight wad, 
and, putting the breech into the smith's fire, the 
gun had discharged itself with a report like that of 

1 Coleman Sellers, " Oliver Evans and His Inventions," Journal 
Of the Franklin Institute, July, 1886: vol. cxxn, p. 16. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 71 

gunpowder. This immediately suggested to his fertile 
mind a new source of power, and he labored long tc 
apply it, but without success, until there fell into his 
hands a book describing the old atmospheric steam 
engine of Newcomen, and he was at once struck with 
the fact that steam was only used to produce a vacuum 
while to him it seemed clear that the elastic power of 
the steam if applied directly to moving the piston, 
would be far more efficient. He soon satisfied himself 
that he could make steam wagons, but could convince 
no one else of this possibility. 1 



Evans was then living in Delaware, where he 
was born, and where he later worked out his inven- 
tions in flour-milling machinery and invented and 
put into service the high-pressure steam engine. 
He appears to have moved to Philadelphia about 
1790, the year of Franklin's death and of the Fed- 
eral Patent Act; and, as we have seen, the third 
patent issued by the Government at Philadelphia 
was granted to him. About this time he became 
absorbed in the hard work of writing a book, the 
Millwright and Miller s Guide, which he published 
in 1795, but at a heavy sacrifice to himself in 
time and money. A few years later he had 
an established engine works in Philadelphia and 

1 Coleman Sellers, "Oliver Evans and His Inventions, " Journal 
qfthe Franklin Institute, July, 1886: vol. cxxn, p. 3. 



72 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

was making steam engines of his own type that 
performed their work satisfactorily. 

The Oruktor Amphibolos, or Amphibious Digger, 
which came out of his shop in 1804, was a steam- 
driven machine made to the order of the Philadel- 
phia Board of Health for dredging and cleaning 
the docks of the city. It was designed, as its name 
suggests, for service either in water or on shore. 
It propelled itself across the city to the river front, 
puffing and throwing off clouds of steam and 
making quite a sensation on the streets. 

Evans had never forgotten his dream of the 
"steam wagon." His Oruktor had no sooner begun 
puffing than he offered to make for the Philadel- 
phia and Lancaster Turnpike Company steam- 
driven carriages to take the place of their six-horse 
Cones toga wagons, promising to treble their profits. 
But the directors of the road were conservative 
men and his arguments fell on deaf ears. 

In the same year Evans petitioned Congress j 
for an extension of the patent on his flour-milling 
machinery, which was about to expire. He had 
derived little profit from this important invention, 
as the new machinery made its way very slowly, 
but every year more and more millers were using 
it and Evans received royalties from them. He 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 73 

felt sure that Congress would renew his patent, 
and, with great expectations for the future, he an- 
nounced a new book in preparation by himself 
to be called The Young Engineer s Guide. It was 
to give the most thorough treatment to the subject 
of the steam engine, with a profusion of draw- 
ings to illustrate the text. But Evans reckoned 
without the millers who were opposing his peti- 
tion. Though they were profiting by his invention, 
they were unwilling to pay him anything, and they 
succeeded in having his bill in Congress defeated. 
It was a hard blow for the struggling author and 
inventor. His income cut off, he was obliged to 
reduce the scale of his book "and to omit many of 
the illustrations he had promised." He wrote the 
sad story into the name of the book. It came 
out under the title of The Abortion of the Young 
Engineer s Guide. 

Four year3 later, when Congress restored and 
extended his patent, Evans felt that better days 
were ahead, but, as said already, he was too far 
ahead of his time to be understood and appreciated. 
Incredulity, prejudice, and opposition were his 
portion as long as he lived. Nevertheless, he went 
on building good engines and had the satisfaction 
of seeing them in extensive use. His life came to 



74 THE 4GE OF INVENTION 

an end as the result of what to him was the greatest 
possible tragedy. He was visiting New York City 
in 1819, when news came to him of the destruction 
by an incendiary of his beloved shops in Philadel- 
phia. The shock was greater than he could bear. 
A stroke of apoplexy followed, from which he died. 
The following prophecy, written by Oliver Evans 
and published in 1812, seventeen years before the 
practical use of the locomotive began, tells us some- 
thing of the vision of this early American inventor: 

The time will come when people will travel in stages 
moved by steam engines from one city to another 
almost as fast as birds fly — fifteen to twenty miles an 
hour. Passing through the air with such velocity — 
changing the scenes in such rapid succession — will be 
the most exhilarating, delightful exercise. A carriage 
will set out from Washington in the morning, and 
the passengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine in 
Philadelphia, and sup at New York the same day. 

To accomplish this, two sets of railways will be laid 
so nearly level as not in any place to deviate more than 
two degrees from a horizontal line, made of wood or 
iron, on smouth paths of broken stone or gravel, with 
a rail to guide the carriages so that they may pass each 
other in different directions and travel by night as well 
as by day; and the passengers will sleep in these stageg 
as comfortably as they do now in steam stage-boats. 1 

1 Cited by Coleman Sellers, Ibid., p. 13. 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 75 

Another early advocate of steam carriages and 
railways was John Stevens, the rich inventor of 
Hoboken, who figures in the story of the steam- 
boat. In February, 1812, Stevens addressed to 
the commissioners appointed by the State of New 
York to explore a route for the Erie Canal an 
elaborate memoir calculated to prove that railways 
would be much more in the public interest than 
the proposed canal. He wrote at the same time to 
Robert R. Livingston (who, as well as Robert 
Fulton, his partner in the steamboat, was one of 
the commissioners) requesting his influence in 
favor of railways. Livingston, having committed 
himself to the steamboat and holding a monopoly 
of navigation on the waters of New York State, 
could hardly be expected to give a willing ear 
to a rival scheme, and no one then seems to have 
dreamed that both canal and railway would ulti- 
mately be needed. Livingston, however, was an 
enlightened statesman, one of the ablest men of his 
day. He had played a prominent part in the af- 
fairs of the Revolution and in the ratification of the 
Constitution; had known Franklin and Washing- 
ton and had negotiated with Napoleon the Louis- 
iana Purchase. His reply to Stevens is a good 
statement of the objections to the railway, as 



76 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

seen at the time, and of the public attitude 
towards it. 



Robert R. Livingston to John Stevens 

Albany, 11th March, 1812. 

I did not, till yesterday, receive yours of the 25th of 
February; where it has loitered on the road I am at a 
loss to say. I had before read your very ingenious 
propositions as to the rail-way communication. I fear, 
however, on mature reflection, that they will be liable 
to serious objections, and ultimately more expensive 
than a canal. They must be double, so as to prevent 
the danger of two such heavy bodies meeting. The 
walls on which they are placed must at least be four 
feet below the surface, and three above, and must be 
clamped with iron, and even then would hardly sus- 
tain so heavy a weight as you propose moving at the 
rate of four miles an hour on wheels. As to wood, it 
would not last a week; they must be covered with iron, 
and that too very thick and strong. The means of 
stopping these heavy carriages without a great shock, 
and of preventing them from running upon each other 
(for there would be many on the road at once) would 
be very difficult. In case of accidental stops, or the 
necessary stops to take wood and water &c many acci- 
dents would happen. The carriage of condensed water 
would be very troublesome. Upon the whole, I fear 
the expense would be much greater than that of canals, 
without being so convenient. 1 

1 John Stevens, Docum,ents Tending to Prove the Superior Ad- 
vantages of Rail-Ways and Steam-Carriages over Canal Navigation 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 77 

Stevens, of course, could not convince the com- 
missioners. "The Communication from John 
Stevens, Esq.," was referred to a committee, who 
reported in March: "That they have considered 
the said communication with the attention due 
to a gentleman whose scientific researches and 
knowledge of mechanical powers entitle his opin- 
ions to great respect, and are sorry not to concur 
in them." 

Stevens, however, kept up the fight. He pub- 
lished all the correspondence, hoping to get aid 
from Congress for his design, and spread his propa- 
ganda far and wide. But the War of 1812 soon 
absorbed the attention of the country. Then came 
the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and the exten- 
sion into the Northwest of the great Cumberland 
Road. From St. Louis steamboats churned their 
way up the Missouri, connecting with the Santa 
Fe Trail to the Southwest and the Oregon Trail to 
the far Northwest. Horses, mules, and oxen car- 
ried the overland travelers, and none yet dreamed 
of being carried on the land by steam. 

Back East, however, and across the sea in Eng- 
land, there were a few dreamers. Railways of 

(1812). Reprinted in The Magazine of History with Notes and 
Queries, Extra Number 54 (1917). 



78 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

wooden rails, sometimes covered with iron, on 
which wagons were drawn by horses, were common 
in Great Britain; some were in use very early in 
America. And on these railways, or tramways, 
men were now experimenting with steam, trying 
to harness it to do the work of horses. In England, 
Trevithick, Blenkinsop, Ericsson, Stephenson, and 
others; in America, John Stevens, now an old man 
but persistent in his plans as ever ana with able 
sons to help him, had erected a circular railway at 
Hoboken as early as 1826, on which he ran a loco- 
motive at the rate of twelve miles an hour. Then 
in 1828 Horatio Allen, of the Delaware and Hud- 
son Canal Company, went over to England and 
brought back with him the Stourbridge Lion. This 
locomotive, though it w^as not a success in practice, 
appears to have been the first to turn a wheel on a 
regular railway within the United States. It was a« 
seven days' wonder in New York when it arrived in 
May, 1829. Then Allen shipped it to Honesdaie, 
Pennsylvania, where the Delaware and Hudson 
Canal Company had a tramway to bring down coal 
from the mountains to the terminal of the canal. 
On the crude wooden rails of tins tramway Allen 
placed the Stourbridge Lion and ran it successfully 
at the rate of ten miles an hour. But in actual 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 79 

service the Stourbridge Lion failed and was soon 
dismantled. 

Pass now to Rainhill, England, and witness the 
birth of the modern locomotive, after all these 
years of labor. In the same year of 1829, on the 
morning of the 6th of October, a great crowd had 
assembled to see an extraordinary race — a race, 
in fact, without any parallel or precedent whatso- 
ever. There were four entries but one dropped out, 
leaving three: The Novelty, John Braithwaite and 
John Ericsson; The Sanspareil, Timothy Hack- 
worth; The Rocket, George and Robert Stephenson. 
! These were not horses; they were locomotives. 
! The directors of the London and Manchester Rail- 
iway had offered a prize of five hundred pounds 
for the best locomotive, and here they were to 
try the issue. 

The contest resulted in the triumph of Stephen- 
son's Rocket. The others fell early out of the race. 
The Rocket alone met all the requirements and won 
[the prize. So it happened that George Stephenson 
Icame into fame and has ever since lived in popular 
! memory as the father of the locomotive. There 
was notnmg new m his Rocket, except nis own worK- 
manship. Like Robert Fulton, he appears to have 
succeeded where others failed because he was a 



80 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

sounder engineer, or a better combiner of sound 
principles into a working whole, than any of 
his rivals. 

Across the Atlantic came the news of Stephen- 
son's remarkable success. And by this time rail- 
roads were beginning in various parts of the United 
States: the Mohawk and Hudson, from Albany to 
Schenectady; the Baltimore and Ohio; the Charles- 
ton and Hamburg in South Carolina; the Camden 
and Amboy, across New Jersey. Horses, mules, 
and even sails, furnished the power for these early 
railroads. It can be imagined with what inter* 
est the owners of these roads heard that at last a 
practicable locomotive was running in England. 

This news stimulated the directors of the Balti- 
more and Ohio to try the locomotive. They had 
not far to go for an experiment, for Peter Cooper, 
proprietor of the Canton Iron Works in Baltimore, 
had already designed a small locomotive, the Tom 
Thumb, This was placed on trial in August, 1830, 
and is supposed to have been the first American- 
built locomotive to do work on rails, though nearly 
coincident with it was the Best Friend of Charleston, 
built by the West Point Foundry, New York, for 
the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad . It is often 
difficult, as we have seen, to say which of two or 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY tfl 

several things was first. It appears as though the 
little Tom Thumb was the first engine built in 
America which actually pulled weight on a regular 
railway, while the much larger Best Friend was the 
first to haul cars in regular daily service. 

The West Point Foundry followed its first suc- 
cess with the West Point, which also went into 
service on the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad, 
and then built for the newly finished Mohawk and 
Hudson (the first link in the New York Central 
Lines) the historic De Witt Clinton. This primitive 
locomotive and the cars it drew may be seen today 
in the Grand Central Station in New York. 

Meanwhile, the Stevens brothers, sons of John 
Stevens, were engaged in the construction of the 
Camden and Amboy Railroad. The first locomo- 
tive to operate on this road was built in England 
by George Stephenson. This was the John Bull, 
which arrived in the summer of 1831 and at once 
went to work. The John Bull was a complete suc- 
cess and had a distinguished career. Sixty-two 
years old, in 1893, it went to Chicago, to the Co- 
lumbian Exposition, under its own steam. The 
John Bull occupies a place today in the National 
Museum at Washington. 

With the locomotive definitely accepted, men 



82 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

began to turn their minds towards its improvement 
and development, and locomotive building soon 
became a leading industry in America. At first the 
British types and patterns were followed, but it 
was not long before American designers began to 
depart from the British models and to evolve a 
distinctively American type. In the development 
of this type great names have been written into the 
industrial history of America, among which the 
name of Matthias Baldwin of Philadelphia prob- 
ably ranks first. But there have been hundreds of 
great workers in this field. From Stephenson's 
Rocket and the little Tom Thumb of Peter Cooper, 
to the powerful "Mallets" of today, is a long 
distance — not spanned in ninety years save by 
the genius and restless toil of countless brains 
and hands. 

If the locomotive could not remain as it was left 
by Stephenson and Cooper, neither could the sta- 
tionary steam engine remain as it was left by James 
Watt and Oliver Evans. Demands increasing and 
again increasing, year after year, forced the steam 
engine to grow in order to meet its responsibilities. 
There were men living in Philadelphia in 1876, who 
had known Oliver Evans personally; at least one 



STEAM IN CAPTIVITY 83 

old man at the Centennial Exhibition had himself 
seen the Oruktor Amphibolos and recalled the con- 
sternation it had caused on the streets of the city 
in 1804. It seemed a far cry back to the Oruktor 
from the great and beautiful engine, designed by 
George Henry Corliss, which was then moving all 
the vast machinery of the Centennial Exhibition. 
But since then achievements in steam have dwarfed 
even the great work of Corliss. And to do a kind 
of herculean task that was hardly dreamed of in 
1876 another type of engine has made its entrance: 
the steam turbine, which sends its awful energy, 
transformed into electric current, to light a million 
lamps or to turn ten thousand wheels on distant 
streets and highways. 



CHAPTER IV 

SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE IN NEW ENGLAND 

The major steps in the manufacture of clothes are 
four: first to harvest and clean the fiber or wool; 
second, to card it and spin it into threads; third, to 
weave the threads into cloth; and, finally to fashion | 
and sew the cloth into clothes. We have already 
seen the influence of Eli Whitney's cotton gin 
on the first process, and the series of inventions 
for spinning and weaving, which so profoundly 
changed the textile industry in Great Britain, has ! 
been mentioned. It will be the business of this 
chapter to tell how spinning and weaving machin- 
ery was introduced into the United States and 
how a Yankee inventor laid the keystone of the 
arch of clothing machinery by his invention of 
the sewing machine. 

Great Britain was determined to keep to herself 
the industrial secrets she had gained. According 
to the economic beliefs of the eighteenth century, 

84 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 85 

which gave place but slowly to the doctrines of 
Adam Smith, monopoly rather than cheap produc- 
tion was the road to success. The laws therefore 
forbade the export of English machinery or draw- 
ings and specifications by which machines might be 
constructed in other countries. Some men saw 
a vast prosperity for Great Britain, if only the 
[mystery might be preserved. 

Meanwhile the stories of what these machines 
could do excited envy in other countries, where 
men desired to share in the industrial gains. And, 
even before Eli Whitney's cotton gin came to 
provide an abundant supply of raw material, some 
Americans were struggling to improve the old hand 
loom, found in every house, and to make some sort 
of a spinning machine to replace the spinning wheel 
by which one thread at a time was laboriously spun. 

East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was the scene 
of one of the earliest of these experiments. There 
in 1786 two Scotchmen, who claimed to under- 
stand Arkw 7 right's mechanism, were employed to 
make spinning machines, and about the same time 
another attempt was made at Beverly. In both 
instances the experiments were encouraged by the 
State and assisted with grants of money. The 
machines* operated by horse power, were crude, 



86 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

and the product was irregular and unsatisfactory. 
Then three men at Providence, Rhode Island, 
using drawings of the Beverly machinery, made 
machines having thirty -two spindles which worked 
indifferently. The attempt to run them by water 
power failed, and they were sold to Moses Brown 
of Pawtucket, who with his partner, William Almy, 
had mustered an army of hand-loom weavers in 
1790, large enough to produce nearly eight thou- 
sand yards of cloth in that year. Brown's need of 
spinning machinery, to provide his weavers with 
yarn, was very great; but these machines he had 
bought would not run, and in 1790 there was not a 
single successful power-spinner in the United States. 
Meanwhile Benjamin Franklin had come home, 
and the Pennsylvania Society for the Encourage- 
ment of Manufactures and Useful Arts was offering 
prizes for inventions to improve the textile indus-J 
try. And in Milford, England, was a youn^ man| 
named Samuel Slater, who, on hearing that inven- 
tive genius was munificently rewarded in America, 
decided to migrate to that country. Slater at the j 
age of fourteen had been apprenticed to Jedediah| 
Strutt, a partner of Arkwright. He had served 
both in the counting-house and the mill and had 
had every opportunity to learn the whole business. 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 87 

Soon after attaining his majority, he landed in 
New York, November, 1789, and found employ- 
ment. From New York he wrote to Moses Brown 
of Pawtucket, offering his services, and that old 
Quaker, though not giving him much encourage- 
ment, invited him to Pawtucket to see whether he 
could run the spindles which Brown had bought 
from the men of Providence. "If thou canst do 
what thou sayest," wrote Brown, "I Invite thee to 
come to Rhode Island." 

Arriving in Pawtucket in January, 1790, Slater 
pronounced the machines worthless, but convinced 
Almy and Brown that he knew his business, and 
they took him into partnership. He had no draw- 
ings or models of the English machinery, except 
such as were in his head, but he proceeded to build 
machines, doing much of the work himself. On 
December 20, 1790, he had ready carding, drawing, 
and roving machines and seventy-two spindles in 
two frames. The water-wheel of an old fulling 
mill furnished the power — and the machinery ran. 

Here then was the birth of the spinning industry 
in the United States. The "Old Factory, " as it 
was to be called for nearly a hundred years, was 
built at Pawtucket in 1793. Five years later 
Slater and others built a second mill, and in 1806 



83 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

after Slater had brought out his brother to share 
his prosperity, he built another. Workmen came 
to work for him solely to learn his machines, and 
then left him to set up for themselves. The knowl- 
edge he had brought soon became widespread. 
Mills were built not only in New England but in 
other States. In 1809 there were sixty-two spin- 
ning mills in operation in the country, with thirty- 
one thousand spindles; twenty -five more mills were 
building or projected, and the industry was firmly 
established in the United States. The yarn was 
sold to housewives for domestic use or else to pro- 
fessional weavers who made cloth for sale. This 
practice was continued for years, not only in 
New England, but also in those other parts of 
the country where spinning machinery had been 
introduced. 

By 1810, however, commerce and the fisheries 
had produced considerable fluid capital in New 
England which was seeking profitable employment, 
especially as the Napoleonic Wars interfered with 
American shipping; and since Whitney's gins in the 
South were now piling up mountains of raw cot- 
ton, and Slater's machines in New England were 
making this cotton into yarn, it was inevitable 
that the next step should be the power loom, to 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 89 

convert the yarn into cloth. So Francis Cabot 
Lowell, scion of the New England family of that 
name, an importing merchant of Boston, conceived 
the idea of establishing weaving mills in Massa- 
chusetts. On a visit to Great Britain in 1811, 
Lowell met at Edinburgh Nathan Appleton, a 
fellow merchant of Boston, to whom he disclosed 
his plans and announced his intention of going to 
Manchester to gain all possible information con- 
cerning the new industry. Two years afterwards, 
according to Appleton's account, Lowell and his 
brother-in-law, Patrick T. Jackson, conferred with 
Appleton at the Stock Exchange in Boston. They 
had decided, they said, to set up a cotton factory 
at Waltham and invited Appleton to join them 
in the adventure, to which he readily consented. 
Lowell had not been able to obtain either drawings 
or model in Great Britain, but he had nevertheless 
designed a loom and had completed a model which 
seemed to work. 

The partners took in with them Paul Moody 
of Amesbury, an expert machinist, and by the 
autumn of 1814 looms were built and set up at 
Waltham. Carding, drawing, and roving ma- 
chines were also built and installed in the mill, 
these machines gaining greatly, at Moody's expert 



90 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

hands, over their American rivals. This was the 
first mill in the United States, and one of the first 
in the world, to combine under one roof all the 
operations necessary to convert raw fiber into 
cloth, and it proved a success. Lowell, says his 
partner Appleton, "is entitled to the credit for 
having introduced the new system in the cotton 
manufacture." Jackson and Moody "were men 
of unsurpassed talent," but Lowell "was the in- 
forming soul, which gave direction and form tc 
the whole proceeding." 

The new enterprise was needed, for the War of 
1812 had cut off imports. The beginnings of the 
protective principle in the United States tariff are 
now to be observed. When the peace came and 
Great Britain began to dump goods in the United 
States, Congress, in 1816, laid a minimum duty of 
six and a quarter cents a yard on imported cottons ; 
the rate was raised in 1824 and again in 1828. It is 
said that Lowell was influential in winning the 
support of John C. Calhoun for the impost of 1816. 
Lowell died in 1817, at the early age of forty-two, 
but his work did not die with him. The mills he 
had founded at Waltham grew exceedingly pros- 
perous under the management of Jackson; and it 
was not long before Jackson and his partners 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 91 

Appleton and Moody were seeking wider oppor- 
tunities. By 1820 they were looking for a suitable 
site on which to build new mills, and their atten- 
tion was directed to the Pawtucket Falls, on the 
Merrimac River. The land about this great water 
power was owned by the Pawtucket Canal Com- 
pany, whose canal, built to improve the navigation 
of the Merrimac, was not paying satisfactory 
profits. The partners proceeded to acquire the 
stock of this company and with it the land neces- 
sary for their purpose, and in December, 1821, they 
executed Articles of Association for the Merrimac 
Manufacturing Company, admitting some addi- 
tional partners, among them Kirk Boott who was 
to act as resident agent and manager of the new 
enterprise, since Jackson could not leave his duties 
at Waltham. 

The story of the enterprise thus begun forms one 
of the brightest pages in the industrial history 
of America; for these partners had the wisdom 
and foresight to make provision at the outset for 
the comfort and well-being of their operatives. 
Their mill hands were to be chiefly girls drawn 
from the rural population of New England, strong 
and intelligent young women, of whom there were 
at that time great numbers seeking employment. 



92 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

since household manufactures had come to be 
largely superseded by factory goods. And one of 
the first questions which the partners considered 
was whether the change from farm to factory life 
would effect for the worse the character of these 
girls. This, says Appleton, "was a matter of deep 
interest. The operatives in the manufacturing 
cities of Europe were notoriously of the lowest 
character for intelligence and morals. The ques- 
tion therefore arose, and was deeply considered, 
whether this degradation was the result of the 
peculiar occupation or of other and distinct causes. 
We could not perceive why this peculiar descrip- 
tion of labor should vary in its effects upon charac- 
ter from all other occupations." And so we find 
the partners voting money, not only for factory 
buildings and machinery, but for comfortable 
boarding-houses for the girls, and planning that 
these boarding-houses should have "the most 
efficient guards," that they should be in "charge 
of respectable women, with every provision for 
religious worship." They voted nine thousand 
dollars for a church building and further sums 
later for a library and a hospital. 

The wheels of the first mill were started in Sep- 
tember, 1823. Next year the partners petitioned 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 93 

the Legislature to have their part of the township 
Set off to form a new town. One year later still 
they erected three new mills; and in another year 
(1826) the town of Lowell was incorporated. 

The year 1829 found the Lowell mills in straits 
for lack of capital, from which, however, they were 
promptly relieved by two great merchants of Bos- 
ton, Amos and Abbott Lawrence, who now became 
partners in the business and who afterwards found- 
ed the city named for them farther down on the 
Merrimac River. 

The story of the Lowell cotton factories, for 
twenty years, more or less, until the American girls 
operating the machines came to be supplanted 
by French Canadians and Irish, is appropriately 
summed up in the title of a book which describes 
the factory life in Lowell during those years. The 
title of this book is An Idyl of Work and it was 
written by Lucy Larcom, who was herself one of 
the operatives and whose mother kept one of the 
corporation boarding-houses. And Lucy Larcom 
was not the only one of the Lowell "factory girls" 
who took to writing and lecturing. There were 
many others, notably, Harriet Hanson (later Mrs. 
W. S. Robinson) , Harriot Curtis ("Mina Myrtle") , 
and Harriet Farley; and many of the "factory 



34 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

girls" married men who became prominent in the 
world. There was no thought among them that 
there was anything degrading in factory work. 
Most of the girls came from the surrounding farms , 
to earn money for a trousseau, to send a brother 
through college, to raise a mortgage, or to enjoy 
the society of their fellow workers, and have a good 
time in a quiet, serious way, discussing the sermons 
and lectures they heard and the books they read 
in their leisure hours. They had numerous "im- 
provement circles" at which contributions of the 
members in both prose and verse were read and 
discussed. And for several years they printed a 
magazine, The Lowell Offering, which was entirely 
written and edited by girls in the mills. 

Charles Dickens visited Lowell in the winter of 
1842 and recorded his impressions of what he saw 
there in the fourth chapter of his American Notes. 
He says that he went over several of the factories, 
"examined them in every part; and saw them in 
their ordinary working aspect, with no preparation 
of any kind, or departure from their ordinary 
every-day proceedings"; that the girls "were all 
well dressed: and that phrase necessarily includes 
extreme cleanliness. They had serviceable Donnets, 
good warm cloaks, and shawls. Moreover. 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 95 

there were places in the mill in which they could 
deposit these things without injury; and there were 
conveniences for washing. They were healthy in 
appearance, many of them remarkably so, and had 
the manners and deportment of young women ; not 
of degraded brutes of burden." Dickens continues : 
"The rooms in which they worked were as well 
ordered as themselves. In the windows of some 
there were green plants, which were trained to 
shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air, 
cleanliness, and comfort as the nature of the occu- 
pation would possibly admit of." Again: "They 
reside in various boarding-houses near at hand. 
The owners of the mills are particularly careful to 
allow no persons to enter upon the possession of 
these houses, whose characters have not undergone 
the most searching and thorough enquiry," Fi- 
nally, the author announces that he will state three 
facts which he thinks will startle his English 
readers: "Firstly, there is a joint-stock piano in 
a great many of the boarding-houses, Secondly, 
nearly all these young ladies subscribe to circu- 
lating libraries. Thirdly, they have got up among 
themselves a periodical called The Lowell Offer- 
ing . . . whereof I brought away from Lowell 
four hundred good solid pages, which I have read 



96 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

from beginning to end." And: "Of the merits of 
the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I will 
only observe, putting entirely out of sight the 
fact of the articles having been written by these 
girls after the arduous labors of the day, that it 
will compare advantageously with a great man} 
English Annuals." 

The efficiency of the New England mills was 
extraordinary. James Montgomery, an English 
cotton manufacturer, visited the Lowell mills two 
years before Dickens and wrote after his inspection 
of them that they produced "a greater quantity of 
yarn and cloth from each spindle and loom (in a 
given time) than was produced by any other fac- 
tories, without exception in the world." Long 
before that time, of course, the basic type of loom 
had changed from that originally introduced, and 
many New England inventors had been busy 
devising improved machinery of all kinds. 

Such were the beginnings of the great textile 
mills of New England. The scene today is vastly 
changed. Productivity has been multiplied by 
invention after invention, by the erection of mill 
after mill, and by the employment of thousands of 
hands in place of hundreds. Lowell as a textile 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 9? 

center has long been surpassed by other cities. 
The scene in Lowell itself is vastly changed. If 
Charles Dickens could visit Lowell today, he would 
hardly recognize in that city of modern factories, of 
more than a hundred thousand people, nearly half 
of them foreigners, the Utopia of 1842 which he 
saw and described. 

The cotton plantations in the South were flourish- 
ing, and Whitney's gins were cleaning more and 
more cotton; the sheep of a thousand hills were 
giving wool; Arkwright's machines in England, 
introduced by Slater into New England, were 
spinning the cotton and wool into yarn; Cart- 
wright's looms in England and Lowell's improve- 
ments in New England were weaving the yarn into 
cloth; but as yet no practical machine had been 
invented to sew the cloth into clothes. 

There were in the United States numerous small 
workshops where a, few tailors or seamstresses, 
gathered under one roof, laboriously sewed gar- 
ments together, but the great bulk of the work, 
until the invention of the sewing machine, was 
done by the wives and daughters of farmers and 
sailors in the villages around Boston, New York, 
and Philadelphia. In these cities the garments 



98 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

were cut and sent out to the dwellings of the poor 
to be sewn. The wages of the laborers were notori- 
ously inadequate, though probably better than in 
England. Thomas Hood's ballad The So?ig of the 
Shirt, published in 1843, depicts the hardships of 
the English woman who strove to keep body and 
soul together by means of the needle: 

With fingers weary and worn, 
With eyelids heavy and red, 

A woman sat in unwomanly rags, 
Plying her needle and thread. 

Meanwhile, as Hood wrote and as the whole 
English people learned by heart his vivid lines, as 
great ladies wept over them and street singers sang 
them in the darkest slums of London, a man, hun- 
gry and ill-clad, in an attic in far-away Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, was struggling to put into metal an 
idea to lighten the toil of those who lived by the 
needle. His name was E^as Howe and he hailed 
from Eli Whitney's old home, Worcester County, 
Massachusetts. There Howe was born in 1819. 
His father was an unsuccessful farmer, who also 
had some small mills, but seems to have succeeded 
in nothing he undertook. 

Young Howe led the ordinary life of a New 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 99 

England country boy, going to school in winter and 
working about the farm until the age of sixteen, 
handling tools every day, like any farmer's boy of 
the time. Hearing of high wages and interesting 
work in Lowell, that growing town on the Merri- 
mac, he went there in 1835 and found employment; 
but two years later, when the panic of 1837 came 
on, he left Lowell and went to work in a machine 
shop in Cambridge. It is said that, for a time, he 
occupied a room with his cousin, Nathaniel P. 
Banks, who rose from bobbin-boy in a cotton mill 
to Speaker of the United States House of Repre- 
sentatives and Major-General in the Civil War. 
Next we hear of Howe in Boston, working in the 
shop of Ari Davis, an eccentric maker and repairer 
of fine machinery. Here the young mechanic heard 
of the desirability of a sewing machine and began 
to puzzle over the problem. Many an inventor 
before him had attempted to make sewing ma- 
chines and some had just fallen short of success. 
Thomas Saint, an Englishman, had patented one 
fifty years earlier; and about this very time a 
Frenchman named Thimmonier was working 
eighty sewing machines making army uniforms, 
when needle workers of Paris, fearing that the 
bread was to be taken from them, broke into his 



100 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

workroom and destroyed the machines. Thim* 
monier tried again, but his machine never came 
into general use. Several patents had been issued 
on sewing machines in the United States, but 
without any practical result. An inventor named 
Walter Hunt had discovered the principle of the 
lock-stitch and had built a machine but had 
wearied of his work and abandoned his invention, 
just as success was in sight. But Howe knew noth- 
ing of any of these inventors. There is no evidence 
that he had ever seen the work of another. 

The idea obsessed him to such an extent that he 
could do no other work, and yet he must live. By 
this time he was married and had children, and his 
wages were only nine dollars a week. Just then an 
old schoolmate, George Fisher, agreed to support 
his family and furnish him with five hundred dol- 
lars for materials and tools. The attic in Fisher's 
house in Cambridge was Howe's workroom. His 
first efforts were failures, but all at once the idea 
of the lock-stitch came to him. Previously all 
machines (except Hunt's, which was unknown, not 
having even been patented) had used the chain- 
stitch, wasteful of thread and easily unraveled. 
The two threads of the lock-stitch cross in the 
materials joined together, and the lines of stitches 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 101 

show the same on both sides. In short, the chain- 
stitch is a crochet or knitting stitch, while the lock- 
stitch is a weaving stitch. Howe had been working 
at night and was on his way home, gloomy and 
despondent, when this idea dawned on his mind, 
probably rising out of his experience in the cotton 
mill. The shuttle would be driven back and forth 
as in a loom, as he had seen it thousands of times, 
and passed through a loop of thread which the 
curved needle would throw out on the other side 
of the cloth; and the cloth would be fastened to the 
machine vertically by pins. A curved arm would 
ply the needle with the motion of a pick-axe. A 
handle attached to the fly-wheel would furnish 
the power. 

On that design Howe made a machine which, 
crude as it was, sewed more rapidly than five of 
the swiftest needle workers. But apparently to no 
purpose. His machine was too expensive, it could 
sew only a straight seam, and it might easily get 
out of order. The needle workers were opposed, as 
they have generally been, to any sort of labor- 
saving machinery, and there was no manufacturer 
willing to buy even one machine at the price Howe 
asked, three hundred dollars. 

Howe's second model was an improvement on 



102 THE AGE OE INVENTION 

the first. It was more compact and it ran mor^ 
smoothly. He had no money even to pay the fees 
accessary to get it patented. Again Fisher came 
to the rescue and took Howe and his machine 
to Washington, paying all the expenses, and the 
patent was issued in September, 1846. But, as the 
machine still failed to find buyers, Fisher gave up 
hope. He had invested about two thousand dol- 
lars which seemed gone forever, and he could not, 
or would not, invest more. Howe returned tempo- 
rarily to his father's farm, hoping for better times. 
Meanwhile Howe had sent one of his brothers 
to London with a machine to see if a foothold 
could be found there, and in due time an encourag- 
ing report came to the destitute inventor. A corset- 
maker named Thomas had paid two hundred and 
fifty pounds for the English rights and had prom- 
ised to pay a royalty of three pounds on each 
machine sold. Moreover, Thomas invited the 
inventor to London to construct a machine es- 
pecially for making corsets. Howe went to Lon- 
don and later sent for his family. But after work- 
ing eight months on small wages, he was as badly 
off as e^er, for, though he had produced the desired 
machine, he quarrelled with Thomas and their 
relations came to an end. 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 103 

An acquaintance, Charles Inglis, advanced 
Howe a little money while he worked on another 
model. This enabled Howe to send his family 
home to America, and then, by selling his last 
model and pawning his patent rights, he raised 
enough money to take passage himself in the steer- 
age in 1848, accompanied by Inglis, who came to 
try his fortune in the United States. 

Howe landed in New York with a few cents in 
his pocket and immediately found work. But his 
wife was dying from the hardships she had suffered, 
due to stark poverty. At her funeral, Howe wore 
borrowed clothes, for his only suit was the one he 
wore in the shop. 

Then, soon after his wife had died, Howe's in- 
vention came into its own. It transpired pres- 
ently that sewing machines were being made and 
sold and that these machines were using the prin- 
ciples covered by Howe's patent. Howe found an 
ally in George W. Bliss, a man of means, who had 
faith in the machine and who bought out Fisher's 
interest and proceeded to prosecute infringers. 
Meanwhile Howe went on making machines — he 
produced fourteen in New York during 1850 — 
and never lost an opportunity to show the merits 
of the invention which was being advertised and 



104 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

brought to notice by the activities of some of the 
infringers, particularly by Isaac M. Singer, the 
best business man of them all. Singer had joined 
hands with Walter Hunt and Hunt had tried to 
patent the machine which he had abandoned nearly 
twenty years before. 

The suits dragged on until 1854, when the case- 
was decisively settled in Howe's favor. His patent 
was declared basic, and all the makers of sewing 
machines must pay him a royalty of twenty-five 
dollars on every machine. So Howe woke one 
morning to find himself enjoying a large income, 
which in time rose as high as four thousand dollars 
a week, and he died in 1867 a rich man. 

Though the basic nature of Howe's patent was 
recognized, his machine was only a rough beginning. 
Improvements followed, one after another, until 
the sewing machine bore little resemblance to 
Howe's original. John Bach elder introduced the 
horizontal table upon which to lay the work. 
Through an opening in the table, tiny spikes in an 
endless belt projected and pushed the work for- 
ward continuously. Allan B. Wilson devised a 
rotary hook carrying a bobbin to do the work of 
the shuttle, and also the small serrated bar which 
pops up through the table near the needle, moves 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 105 

forward a tiny space, carrying the cloth with it, 
drops down just below the upper surface of the 
table, and returns to its starting point, to repeat 
over and over again this series of motions. This 
simple device brought its owner a fortune. Isaac 
M. Singer, destined to be the dominant figure of 
the industry, patented in 1851 a machine stronger 
than any of the others and with several valuable 
features, notably the vertical presser foot held 
down by a spring; and Singer was the first to adopt 
the treadle, leaving both hands of the operator free 
to manage the work. His machine was good, but, 
rather than its surpassing merits, it was his wonder- 
ful business ability that made the name of Singer 
a household word. 

By 1856 there were several manufacturers in the 
field, threatening war on each other. All men were 
paying tribute to Howe, for his patent was basic, 
and all could join in fighting him, but there were 
several other devices almost equally fundamental, 
and even if Howe's patents had been declared void 
it is probable that his competitors would have 
fought quite as fiercely among themselves. At the 
suggestion of George Gifford, a New York attorney, 
the leading inventors and manufacturers agreed to 
pool their inventions and to establish a fixed license 



106 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

fee for the use of each. This "combination" was j 
composed of Elias Howe, Wheeler and Wilson, 
Grover and Eaker, and I. M. Singer, and domi- 
nated the field until after 1877, when the majority 
of the basic patents expired. The members manu- 
factured sewing machines and sold them in Amer- 
ica and Europe. Singer introduced the install- 
ment plan of sale, to bring the machine within 
reach of the poor, and the sewing-machine agent, 
with a machine or two on his wagon, drove through 
every small town and country district, demon- 
strating and selling. Meanwhile the price of the 
machines steadily fell, until it seemed that Singer's 
slogan, "A machine in every home!" was in a fair 
way to be realized, had not another development 
of the sewing machine intervened. 

This was the development of the ready-made 
clothing industry. In the earlier days of the na~ . 
tion, though nearly all the clothing was of domes- 
tic manufacture, there were tailors and seam- 
stresses in all the towns and many of the villages, 
who made clothing to order. Sailors coming ashore 
sometimes needed clothes at once, and apparently 
a merchant of New Bedford w r as the first to keep 
a stock on hand. About 1831, George Opdyke, 
later Mayor of New York, began the manufacture 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 107 

of clothing on Hudson Street, which he sold largely 
through a store in New Orleans. Other firms began 
to reach out for this Southern trade, and it became 
important. Southern planters bought clothes not 
only for their slaves but for their families. The 
development of California furnished another large 
market. A shirt factory was established, in 1832, 
on Cherry and Market Streets, New York. But 
not until the coming of the power-driven sewing 
machine could there be any factory production of 
clothes on a large scale. Since then the clothing 
industry has become one of the most important in 
the country. The factories have steadily improved 
their models and materials, and at the present day 
only a negligible fraction of the people of the 
United States wear clothes made to their order. 

The sewing machine today does many things 
besides sewing a seam. There are attachments 
which make buttonholes, darn, embroider, make 
ruffles or hems, and dozens of other things. There 
are special machines for every trade, some of which 
deal successfully with refractory materials. 

The Singer machine of 1851 was strong enough 
to sew leather and was almost at once adopted 
by the shoemakers. These craftsmen flourished 
chiefly in Massachusetts, and they had traditions 



108 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

reaching back at least to Philip Kertland, who 
came to Lynn in 1636 and taught many appren- 
tices. Even in the early days before machinery, 
division of labor was the rule in the shops of Massa- 
chusetts. One workman cut the leather, often 
tanned on the premises; another sewed the uppers 
together, while another sewed on the soles. Wood- 
en pegs were invented in 1811 and came into com- 
mon use about 1815 for the cheaper grades of shoes. 
Soon the practice of sending out the uppers to be 
done by women in their own homes became com- 
mon. These women were wretchedly paid, and 
when the sewing machine came to do the work 
better than it could be done by hand, the practice 
of "putting out" work gradually declined. 

That variation of the sewing machine which was 
to do the more difficult work of sewing the sole to 
the upper was the invention of a mere boy, Lyman 
R. Blake. The first model, completed in 1858, was | 
imperfect, but Blake was able to interest Gordon 
McKay, of Boston, and three years of patient 
experimentation and large expenditure followed. 
The McKay sole-sewing machine, which they pro- 
duced, came into use, and for twenty-one years 
was used almost universally both in the United 
States and Great Britain. But this, like all the 



SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE 109 

other useful inventions, was in time enlarged and 
greatly improved, and hundreds of other inven- 
tions have been made in the shoe industry. There 
are machines to split leather, to make the thickness 
absolutely uniform, to sew the uppers, to insert 
eyelets, to cut out heel tops s and many more. In 
fact, division of labor has been carried farther in 
the making of shoes than in most industries, for 
there are said to be about three hundred separate 
operations in making a pair of shoes. 

From small beginnings great industries have 
grown. It is a far cry from the slow, clumsy ma- 
chine of Elias Howe, less than three-quarters of a 
century ago, to the great factories of today, filled 
with special models, run at terrific speed by electric 
current, and performing tasks which would seem 
to require more than human intelligence and skill. 



CHAPTER V 

THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 

The Census of 1920 shows that hardly thirty per 
cent of the people are today engaged in agriculture, 
the basic industry of the United States, as com- 
pared with perhaps ninety per cent when the nation 
began. Yet American farmers, though constantly 
diminishing in proportion to the whole population, 
have always been, and still are, able to feed them- 
selves and all their fellow Americans and a large 
part of the outside world as well. They bring forth 
also not merely foodstuffs, but vast quantities of 
raw material for manufacture, such as cotton, wool, 
and hides. This immense productivity is due to 
the use of farm machinery on a scale seen nowhere 
else in the world. There is still, and always will be, 
a good deal of hard labor on the farm. But inven- 
tion has reduced the labor and has made possible 
the carrying on of this vast industry by a relatively 
small number of hands. 

no 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 111 

The farmers of Washington's day had no better 
tools than had the farmers of Julius Caesar's day; 
in fact, the Roman ploughs were probably superior 
to those in general use in America eighteen cen- 
turies later. "The machinery of production," 
says Henry Adams, "showed no radical difference 
from that familiar in ages long past. The Saxon 
farmer of the eighth century enjoyed most of the 
comforts known to Saxon farmers of the eight- 
eenth." l One type of plough in the United States 
Iwas little more than a crooked stick with an iron 
point attached, sometimes with rawhide, which 
simply scratched the ground. Ploughs of this sort 
were in use in Illinois as late as 1812. There were 
sa few ploughs designed to turn a furrow, often 
simply heavy chunks of tough wood, rudely hewn 
into shape, with a wrought-iron point clumsily 
attached. The moldboard was rough and the 
curves of no two were alike. Country blacksmiths 
made ploughs only on order and few had patterns. 
Such ploughs could turn a furrow in soft ground — 
if the oxen were strong enough — but the friction 
was so great that three men and four or six oxen 
were required to turn a furrow where the sod 
was tougn. 

1 History of the United States, vol. i, p. 16. 



112 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Thomas Jefferson had worked out very elabo- 
rately the proper curves of the moldboard, and 
several models had been constructed for him. He 
was, however, interested in too many things ever 
to follow any one to the end, and his work seems 
to have had little publicity. The first real inventor 
of a practicable plough was Charles Newbold, of 
Burlington County, New Jersey, to whom a 
patent for a cast-iron plough was issued in June, 
1797. But the farmers would have none of it. 
They said it "poisoned the soil" and fostered the 
growth of weeds. One David Peacock received a 
patent in 1807, and two others later. Newbold 
sued Peacock for infringement and recovered 
damages. Pieces of Newbold 's original plough are 
in the museum of the New York Agricultural 
Society at Albany. 

Another inventor of ploughs was Jethro Wood, 
a blacksmith of Scipio, New York, who received 
two patents, one in 1814 and the other in 1819. 
His plough was of cast iron, but in three parts, so 
that a broken part might be renewed without pur- 
chasing an entire plough. This principle of stand- 
ardization marked a great advance. The farmers 
by this time were forgetting their former prej- 
udices, and many ploughs were sold. Though 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 113 

Wood's original patent was extended, infringe- 
ments were frequent, and he is said to have spent 
his entire property in prosecuting them. 

In clay soils these ploughs did not work well, as 
the more tenacious soil stuck to the iron mold- 
board instead of curling gracefully away. In 1833, 
John Lane, a Chicago blacksmith, faced a wooden 
moldboard with an old steel saw. It worked like 
magic, and other blacksmiths followed suit to such 
an extent that the demand for old saws became 
brisk. Then came John Deere, a native of Ver- 
mont, who settled first in Grand Detour, and then 
in Moline, Illinois. Deere made wooden ploughs 
faced with steel, like other blacksmiths, but was 
not satisfied with them and studied and experi- 
mented to find the best curves and angles for a 
plough to be used in the soils around him. His 
ploughs were much in demand, and his need for 
steel led him to have larger and larger quantities 
produced for him, and the establishment which 
still bears his name grew to large proportions. 

Another skilled blacksmith, William Parlin, at 
Canton, Illinois, began making ploughs about 
1842, which he loaded upon a wagon and peddled 
through the country. Later his establishment 
grew large. Another John Lane, a son of the first, 



114 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

patented in 1868 a "soft-center" steel plough. 
The hard but brittle surface was backed by softer 
and more tenacious metal, to reduce the breakage. 
The same year James Oliver, a Scotch immigrant 
who had settled at South Bend, Indiana, received 
a patent for the " chilled plough." By an ingenious 
method the wearing surfaces of the casting were 
cooled more quickly than the back, The surfaces 
which came in contact with the soil had a hard, 
glassy surface, while the body of the plough was of 
tough iron. From small beginnings Oliver's es- 
tablishment grew great, and the Oliver Chilled 
Plow Works at South Bend is today one of the 
largest and most favorably known privately owned 
industries in the United States, 

From the single plough it was only a step to two 
or more ploughs fastened together, doing more 
work with approximately the same man power. 
The sulky plough, on which the ploughman rode, 
made his work easier, and gave him great control. 
Such ploughs were certainly in use as early as 1844, 
perhaps earlier. The next step forward was to sub- 
stitute for horses a traction engine. Today one 
may see on thousands of farms a tractor pulling six, 
eight, ten, or more ploughs, doing the work better 
than it could be done by an iu dividual ploughmaD 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 115 

On the "Bonanza" farms of the West a fifty horse- 
power engine draws sixteen ploughs, followed by 
harrows and a grain drill, and performs the three 
operations of ploughing, harrowing, and planting 
at the same time and covers fifty acres or more 
in a day. 

The basic ideas in drills for small grains were 
successfully developed in Great Britain, and many 
British drills were sold in the United States before 
one was manufactured here. American manufac- 
ture of these drills began about 1840. Planters for 
corn came somewhat later. Machines to plant 
wheat successfully were unsuited to corn, which 
must be planted less profusely than wheat. 

The American pioneers had only a sickle or a 
scythe with which to cut their grain. The addition 
to the scythe of wooden fingers, against which the 
grain might lie until the end of the swing, w T as a 
natural step, and seems to have been taken quite 
independently in several places, perhaps as early as 
1803. Grain cradles are still used in hilly regions 
and in those parts of the country where little grain 
is grown. 

The first attempts to build a machine to cut 
grain were made in England and Scotland, several 
of them in the eighteenth century: and in 1822 



116 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Henry Ogle, a schoolmaster in Rennington, made a 
mechanical reaper, but the opposition of the labor- 
ers of the vicinity, who feared loss of employment, 
prevented further development. In 1826, Patrick 
Bell, a young Scotch student, afterward a Presby- 
terian minister, who had been moved by the fatigue 
of the harvesters upon his father's farm in Argyll- 
shire, made an attempt to lighten their labor. His 
reaper was pushed by horses; a reel brought the 
grain against blades which opened and closed like 
scissors, and a traveling canvas apron deposited 
the grain at one side. The inventor received a 
prize from the Highland and Agricultural Society 
of Edinburgh, and pictures and full descriptions 
of his invention were published. Several models 
of this reaper were built in Great Britain, and 
it is said that four came to the United States; 
however this may be, Bell's machine was never 
generally adopted. 

Soon afterward three men patented reapers in 
the United States: William Manning, Plainfield, 
New Jersey, 1831; Obed Hussey, Cincinnati, Ohio, 
1833; and Cyrus Hall McCormick, Staunton, Vir- 
ginia, 1834. Just how much they owed to Patrick 
Bell cannot be known, but it is probable that all 
had heard of his design if they had not seen his 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION in 

drawings or the machine itself. The first of these 
inventors, Manning of New Jersey, drops out of 
the story, for it is not known whether he ever made 
a machine other than his model. More persistent 
was Obed Hussey of Cincinnati, who soon moved 
to Baltimore to fight out the issue with McCormick. 
Hussey was an excellent mechanic. He patented 
several improvements to his machine and received 
high praise for the efficiency of the work. But he 
was soon outstripped in the race because he was 
weak in the essential qualities which made McCor- 
mick the greatest figure in the world of agricultural 
machinery. McCormick w T as more than a me- 
chanic; he was a man of vision; and he had the en- 
thusiasm of a crusader and superb genius for busi- 
ness organization and advertisement. His story 
has been told in another volume of this series. 1 

Though McCormick offered reapers for sale in 
1834, he seems to have sold none in that year, nor 
any for six years afterwards. He sold two in 1840, 
seven in 1842, fifty in 1844. The machine was not 
really adapted to the hills of the Valley of Virginia, 
and farmers hesitated to buy a contrivance which 
needed the attention of a skilled mechanic. Mc- 
Cormick made a trip through the Middle West= 

1 The Age of Big Business, by Burton J. Hendrick. 



(18 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

In the rolling prairies, mile after mile of rich sofl 
wi tl lout a tree or a stone, he saw his future domin- 
ion. Hussey had moved East. MeCormiek did 
the opposite; he moved West, to Chicago, in 1847. 

Chicago was then a town of hardly ten thousands 
but MeCormiek foresaw its future, built a factory- 
there, and manufactured five hundred machines 
for the harvest of 1848. From this time he went 
on from triumph to triumph. He formulated an 
elaborate business system. His machines were to 
be sold at a fixed price, payable in installments if 
desired, with a guarantee of satisfaction. He set 
up a system of agencies to give instruction or to 
supply spare parts. Advertising, chiefly by ex- 
hibitions and contests at fairs and other public 
gatherings, was another item of his programme. 
All would have failed, of course, if he had not built 
good machines, but he did build good machines, 
and was not daunted by the Government's refusal 
in 1848 to renew his original patent. He decided 
to make profits as a manufacturer rather than* 
accept royalties as an inventor. 

MeCormiek had many competitors, and some of 

them were in the field with improved devices ahead 

3* him, but he always held his own, either by buy- 

up the patent for a real improvement, or else 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 119 

by requiring his staff to invent something to do the 
same work. Numerous new devices to improve the 
harvester were patented, but the most important 
was an automatic attachment to bind the sheaves 
with wire. This was patented in 1872, and Mc- 
Cormick soon made it his own. The harvester 
seemed complete. One man drove the team, and 
the machine cut the grain, bound it in sheaves, and 
deposited them upon the ground. 

Presently, however, complaints were heard of 
the wire tie. When the wheat was threshed, bits of 
wire got into the straw, and were swallowed by the 
cattle; or else the bits of metal got among the wheat 
itself and gave out sparks in grinding, setting some 
mills on fire. Two inventors, almost simultane- 
ously, produced the remedy. Marquis L. Gorham, 
working for McCormick, and John F. Appleby, 
whose invention was purchased by William Deer- 
ing, one of McCormick's chief competitors, in- 
vented binders which used twine. By 1880 the 
self-binding harvester was complete. No distinc- 
tive improvement has been made since, except 
to add strength and simplification. The machine 
now needed the services of only two men, one to 
drive and the other to shock the bundles, and could 
reap twenty acres or more a day, tie the grain into 



120 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

bundles of uniform size, and dump them in piles of 
five ready to be shocked. 

Grain must be separated from the straw and 
chaff. The Biblical threshing floor, on which oxen 
or horses trampled out the grain, was still common 
m Washington's time, though it had been largely 
succeeded by the flail. In Great Britain several 
threshing machines were devised in the eighteenth 
century, but none was particularly successful. 
They were stationary, and it was necessary to 
bring the sheaves to them. The seventh patent 
issued by the United States, to Samuel Mul liken 
of Philadelphia, was for a threshing machine. The 
portable horse-power treadmill, invented in 1830 
by Hiram A. and John A. Pitts of Winthrop, Maine, 
was presently coupled with a thresher, or "separa- 
tor," and this outfit, with its men and horses, 
moving from farm to farm, soon became an autumn 
feature of every neighborhood. The treadmill was 
later on succeeded by the traction engine, and the 
apparatus now in common use is an engine which 
draws the greatly improved threshing machine 
from farm to farm, and when the destination is 
reached, furnishes the power to drive the thresher. 
Many of these engines are adapted to the use of 
straw as fuel. 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 121 

Another development was the combination har- 
vester and thresher used on the larger farms of 
the West. This machine does not cut the wheat 
close to the ground, but the cutter-bar, over 
twenty-five feet in length, takes off the heads. 
The wheat is separated from the chaff and auto- 
matically weighed into sacks, which are dumped as 
fast as two expert sewers can work. The motive 
power is a traction engine or else twenty to thirty 
horses, and seventy -five acres a day can be reaped 
and threshed. Often another tractor pulling a 
dozen wagons follows and the sacks are picked up 
and hauled to the granary or elevator. 

Haying was once the hardest work on the farm, 
and in no crop has machinery been more efficient. 
! The basic idea in the reaper, the cutter-bar, is the 
whole of the mower, and the machine developed 
with the reaper. Previously Jeremiah Bailey, of 
Chester County, Pennsylvania, had patented in 
1822 a machine drawn by horses carrying a re- 
volving wheel with six scythes, which was widely 
used. The inventions of Manning, Hussey, and 
McCormick made the mower practicable. Hazard 
Knowles, an employee of the Patent Office, in- 
vented the hinged cutter -bar, which could be 
lifted over an obstruction, but never patented 



m THE AGE OF INVENTION 

the invention. William F. Ketchum of Buffalo, 
New York, in 1844, patented the first machine in- 
tended to cut hay only, and dozens of others fol- 
lowed. The modern mowing machine was prac- 
tically developed in the patent of Lewis Miller of 
Canton, Ohio, in 1858. Several times as many 
mowers as harvesters are sold, and for that mat- 
ter, reapers without binding attachments are still 
manufactured. 

Hay rakes and tedders seem to have developed 
almost of themselves. Diligent research has failed 
to discover any reliable information on the inven- 
tion of the iiayrake, though a horserake was pat- 
ented as early as 1818. Joab Center of Hudson. 
New York, patented a machine for turning and 
spreading hay in 1834. Mechanical hay-loaders 
have greatly reduced the amount of human labor. 
The 1 iay -press makes storage and transportation 
easier and cheaper. 

There are binders which cut and bind corn. An 
addition shocks the corn and deposits it upon the 
nd. The shredder and husker removes the 
husks them, and shreds shucks, stalks, and 
fodder. Power shellers separate grain and cobs 
;iJ " ,v than a hundred times as rapidly as a pair of 
human hands could do. One student of agriculture 






THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 123 

has estimated that it would require the whole 
agricultural population of the United States one 
hundred days to shell the average corn crop by 
hand, but this is an exaggeration. 

The list of labor-saving machinery in agriculture 
is by no means exhausted. There are clover hullers s 
bean and pea threshers, ensilage cutters, manure 
spreaders, and dozens of others. On the dairy 
farm the cream separator both increases the quan- 
tity and improves the quality of the butter and 
saves time. Power also drives the churns, On 
many farms cows are milked and sheep are sheared 
by machines and eggs are hatched without hens. 

There are, of course, thousands of farms in the 
country where machinery cannot be used to ad- 
vantage and where the work is still done entirely or 
in part in the old ways. 

Historians once were fond of marking off the 
story of the earth and of men upon the earth into 
distinct periods fixed by definite dates. One who 
attempts to look beneath the surface cannot ac- 
cept this easy method of treatment. Beneath the 
surface new tendencies develop long before they 
demand recognition; an institution may be de- 
caying long before its weakness is apparent. The 



m THE AGE OF INVENTION 

American Revolution began not with the Stamp Act 
but at least a century earlier, as soon as the settlers 
ed that there were three thousand miles of 
sea between England and the rude country in 
which they found themselves; the Civil War began, 
if not in early Virginia, with the se Dutch Man of 
Warre that sold us twenty Negars," at least with 
Eli Whitney and his cotton gin. 

Nevertheless, certain dates or short periods seem 
to be flowering times. Apparently all at once a 
flood of invention, a change of methods, a differ- 
ence in organization, or a new psychology manifests 
itself. And the decade of the Civil War does serve 
as a landmark to mark the passing of one period in 
American life and the beginning of another; es- 
pecially in agriculture; and as agriculture is the 
basic industry of the country it follows that with 
its mutations the whole superstructure is also 
changed. 

The United States which fought the Civil War 
was vastly different from the United States which 
fronted the world at the close of the Revolution. 
The scant four million people of 1790 had grown to 
thirty-one and a half million. This growth had 
come chiefly by natural increase, but also by immi- 
gration, conquest, and annexation. Settlement 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 125 

had reached the Pacific Ocean, though there were 
great stretches of almost uninhabited territory be- 
tween the settlements on the Pacific and those 
just beyond the Mississippi, 

The cotton gin had turned the whole South 
toward the cultivation of cotton, though some 
States were better fitted for mixed farming, and 
their devotion to cotton meant loss in the end as 
subsequent events have proved. The South was 
not manufacturing any considerable proportion of 
the cotton it grew, but the textile industry was 
flourishing in New England. A whole series of 
machines similar to those used in Great Britain, 
but not identical, had been invented in America. 
American mills paid higher wages than British and 
in quantity production were far ahead of the Brit- 
ish mills, in proportion to hands employed, which 
meant being ahead of the rest of the world. 

Wages in America, measured by the world stand- 
ard, were high, though as expressed in money, they 
seem low now. They were conditioned by the 
supply of free land, or land that was practically 
free. The wages paid were necessarily high enough 
to attract laborers from the soil which they might 
easily own if they chose. There was no fixed labor- 
ing class. The boy or girl in a textile mill often 



126 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

worked only a few years to save money, buy a f arm, 
or to enter some business or profession. 

The steamboat now, wherever there was navi- 
gable water, and the railroad, for a large part of the 
way, offered transportation to the boundless West. 
Steamboats traversed all the larger rivers and the 
lakes. The railroad was growing rapidly. Its lines 
had extended to more than thirty thousand miles. 
Construction went on during the war, and the 
transcontinental railway was in sight. The loco- 
motive had approached standardization, and the 
American railway car was in form similar to that 
of the present day, though not so large, so comfort- 
able, or so strong. The Pullman car, from which 
has developed the chair car, the dining car, and 
the whole list of special cars, was in process of de- 
velopment, and the automatic air brake of George 
Westinghouse was soon to follow. 

Thus far had the nation progressed in invention 
and industry along the lines of peaceful develop- 
ment . But with the Civil War came a sudden and 
i remendous advance. No result of the Civil War, 
political or social, has more profoundly affected 
American life than the application to the farm, 
as a war necessity, of machinery on a great scale. 
So long as labor was plentiful and cheap, only a 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION 127 

comparatively few farmers could be interested in 
expensive machinery, but when the war called the 
young men away the worried farmers gladly turned 
to the new machines and found that they were able 
not only to feed the Union, but also to export 
immense quantities of wheat to Europe, even 
during the war. Suddenly the West leaped into 
great prosperity. And long centuries of economic 
and social development were spanned within e. 
few decades. 



CHAPTER VI 

AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 

Communication is one of man's primal needs. 
There was indeed a time when no formula of 
language existed, when men communicated with 
each other by means of gestures, grimaces, gut- 
tural sounds, or rude images of things seen; but it is 
impossible to conceive of a time when men had no 
means of communication at all. And at last, after 
long ages, men evolved in sound the names of the 
things they knew and the forms of speech; ages 
later, the alphabet and the art of writing; ages later 
still, those wonderful instruments of extension 
for the written and spoken word: the telegraph, 
the telephone, the modern printing press, the 
phonograph, the typewriter, and the camera. 

The worr} "telegraph" is derived from Greek 
and means " to write far " ; so it is a very exact word, 
for to write far is precisely what we do when we 

12* 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 129 

send a telegram. The word today, used as a noun, 
denotes the system of wires with stations and opera- 
tors and messengers, girdling the earth and reach- 
ing into every civilized community, whereby news 
is carried swiftly by electricity. But the word was 
coined long before it was discovered that intelli- 
gence could be communicated by electricity. It 
denoted at first a system of semaphores, or tall 
poles with movable arms, and other signaling ap- 
paratus, set within sight of one another. There 
was such a telegraph line between Dover and 
London at the time of Waterloo; and this telegraph 
began relating the news of the battle, which had 
come to Dover by ship, to anxious London, when a 
fog set in and the Londoners had to wait until a 
courier on horseback arrived. And, in the very 
years when the real telegraph was coming into 
being, the United States Government, without a 
thought of electricity, was considering the advisa- 
bility of setting up such a system of telegraphs in 
the United States. 

The telegraph is one of America's gifts to the 
world. The honor for this invention falls to Samuel 
Finley Breese Morse, a New Englander of old 
Puritan stock. Nor is the glory that belongs to 
Morse in any way dimmed by the fact that he made 



130 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

use of the discoveries of other men who had been 
trying to unlock the secrets of electricity ever since 
Franklin's experiments. If Morse discovered no 
new principle, he is nevertheless the man of all the 
workers in electricity between his own day and 
Franklin's whom the world most delights to honor; 
and rightly so, for it is to such as Morse that the 
world is most indebted. Others knew; Morse saw 
and acted. Others had found out the facts, but 
Morse was the first to perceive the practical sig- 
nificance of those facts; the first to take steps to 
make them of service to his fellows; the first man 
of them all with the pluck and persistence to re- 
main steadfast to his great design, through twelve 
long years of toil and privation, until his coun- 
trymen accepted his work and found it well done. 
Morse was happy in his birth and early training. 
He was born in 1791, at Charlestown, Massachu- 
setts. His father was a Congregational minister 
and a scholar of high standing, who, by careful 
management, was able to send his three sons to 
Yale College. Thither went young Samuel (or 
Pmley, as he was called by his family) at the age of 
fourteen and came under the influence of Ben- 
jamin Sillinian, Professor of Chemistry, and of 
Feremiah Day, Professor of Natural Philosophy, 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 13J 

afterwards President of Yale College, whose teach- 
ing gave him impulses which in later years led to 
the invention of the telegraph. "Mr. Day's lec- 
tures are very interesting,' ' the young student 
wrote home in 1809; "they are upon electricity; he 
has given us some very fine experiments, the whole 
class taking hold of hands form the circuit of com- 
munication and we all receive the shock apparently 
I at the same moment." Electricity, however, was 
only an alluring study. It afforded no means of 
livelihood, and Morse had gifts as an artist; in fact, 
he earned a part of his college expenses painting 
miniatures at five dollars apiece. He decided, 
therefore, that art should be his vocation. 

A letter written years afterwards by Joseph M. 
Dulles of Philadelphia, who was at New Haven 
preparing for Yale when Morse was in his senior 
year, is worth reading here: 

I first became acquainted with him at New Ha- 
ven, when about to graduate with the class of 1810, 
and had such an association as a boy preparing for 
college might have with a senior who was just finishing 
his course. Having come to New Haven under the care 
of Rev. Jedidiah Morse, the venerable father of the 
three Morses, all distinguished men, I was commend- 
ed to the protection of Finley, as he was then com- 
monly designated, and therefore saw him frequently 



132 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

during the brief period we were together. The father 
I regard as the gravest man I ever knew. He was 
a fine exemplar of the gentler type of the Puritan, 
courteous in manner, but stern in conduct and in as- 
pect. He was a man of conflict, and a leader in the 
theological contests in New England in the early part 
of this century. Finley, on the contrary, bore the 
expression of gentleness entirely. In person rather 
above the ordinary height, well formed, graceful in 
demeanor, with a complexion, if I remember right, 
slightly ruddy, features duly proportioned, and often 
lightened with a genial and expressive smile. He was, 
altogether, a handsome young man, with manners un- 
usually bland. It is needless to add that with intelli- 
gence, high culture, and general information, and with 
a strong bent to the fine arts, Mr. Morse was in 1810 
an attractive young man. During the last year of his 
college life he occupied his leisure hours, with a view to 
his self-support, in taking the likenesses of his fellow- 
students on ivory, and no doubt with success, as he 
obtained afterward a very respectable rank as a por- 
trait-painter. Many pieces of his skill were afterward 
executed in Charleston, South Carolina. 1 

That Morse was destined to be a painter seemed 
certain, and when, soon after graduating from 
Yale, he made the acquaintance of Washington 
Alls ton, an American artist of high standing, any 
doubts that may have existed in his mind as to his 
vocation were set at rest. Alls ton was then living 

1 Prime, The Life of Samuel F. B. Morse, LL.D., p. 26. 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 133 

in Boston, but was planning to return to England, 
where his name was well known, and it was ar- 
ranged that young Morse should accompany him 
as his pupil. So in 1811 Morse went to England 
with Allston and returned to America four years 
later an accredited portrait painter, having studied 
not only under Allston but under the famous 
master, Benjamin West, and having met on inti- 
mate terms some of the great Englishmen of the 
time. He opened a studio in Boston, but as sitters 
were few, he made a trip through New England, 
taking commissions for portraits, and also visited 
Charleston, South Carolina, where some of his 
paintings may be seen today. 

At Concord, New Hampshire, Morse met Miss 
Lucretia Walker, a beautiful and cultivated young 
woman, and they were married in 1818. Morse 
then settled in New York. His reputation as a 
painter increased steadily, though he gained little 
money, and in 1825 he was in Washington painting 
a portrait of the Marquis La Fayette, for the city 
of New York, when he heard from his father the 
bitter news of his wife's death in New Haven, then 
a journey of seven days from Washington. Leav- 
ing the portrait of La Fayette unfinished, the 
heartbroken artist made his way home. 



134 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Two years afterwards Morse was again obsessed 
with the marvels of electricity, as he had been in 
college. The occasion this time was a series of 
lectures on that subject given by James Freeman 
Dana before the New York Athenaeum in the 
chapel of Columbia College. Morse attended 
these lectures and formed with Dana an intimate 
acquaintance. Dana was in the habit of going to 
Morse's studio, where the two men would talk 
earnestly for long hours. But Morse was still 
devoted to his art; besides, he had himself and 
three children to support, and painting was his only 
source of income. 

Back to Europe went Morse in 1829 to pursue 
his profession and perfect himself in it by three 
years' further study. Then came the crisis. Home- 
ward bound on the ship Sully in the autumn of 
1832, Morse fell into conversation with some scien- 
tific men who were on board. One of the passengers 
asked this question: "Is the velocity of electricity 
reduced by the length of its conducting wire? " To 
which his neighbor replied that electricity passes 
instantly over any known length of wire and re- 
ferred to Franklin's experiments with several miles 
of wire, in which no appreciable time elapsed be- 
tween a touch at one end and a spark at the other. 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 135 

Here was a fact already well known. Morse 
must have known it himself. But the tremendous 
significance of that fact had never before occurred 
to him nor, so far as he knew, to any man. A re- 
cording telegraph! Why not? Intelligence de- 
livered at one end of a wire instantly recorded at 
the other end, no matter how long the wire! It 
might reach across the continent or even round 
the earth. The idea set his mind on fire. 

Home again in November, 1832, Morse found 
himself on the horns of a dilemma. To give up 
his profession meant that he would have no income; 
on the other hand, how could he continue whole- 
heartedly painting pictures while consumed with 
the idea of the telegraph? The idea would not 
down; yet he must live; and there were his three 
motherless children in New Haven. He would 
have to go on painting as well as he could and de- 
velop his telegraph in what time he could spare. 
His brothers, Richard and Sidney, were both living 
in New York and they did what they could for 
him, giving him a room in a building they had 
erected at Nassau and Beekman Streets. Morse's 
lot at this time was made all the harder by hopes 
raised and dashed to earth again. Congress had 
voted money for mural paintings for the rotunda of 



136 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

the Capitol. The artists were to be selected by 
a committee of which John Quincy Adams was 
chairman. Morse expected a commission for a 
part of the work, for his standing at that time was 
second to that of no American artist, save Allston, 
and Allston he knew had declined to paint any of 
the pictures and had spoken in his favor. Adams, 
however, as chairman of the committee was of the 
opinion that the pictures should be done by for- 
eign artists, there being no Americans available, 
he thought, of sufficiently high standing to exe- 
cute the work with fitting distinction. This opin- 
ion, publicly expressed, infuriated James Fenimore 
Cooper, Morse's friend, and Cooper wrote an at- 
tack on Adams in the New York Evening Post, but 
without signing it. Supposing Morse to be the 
author of this article, Adams summarily struck 
his name from the list of artists who were to 
be employed. 

I low very poor Morse was about this time is 
indicated by a story afterwards told by General 
Strother of Virginia, who was one of his pupils: 

I engaged to become Morse's pupil and subsequently 
went to New York and found him in a room in Uni- 
versity Place. He had three or four other pupils and 1 
Boon found thai our professor had very little patronage. 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 137 

I paid my fifty dollars for one-quarter's instruction. 
Morse was a faithful teacher and took as much in- 
terest in our progress as — more indeed than — we 
did ourselves. But he was very poor. I remember 
that, when my second quarter's pay was due, my re- 
mittance did not come as expected, and one day 
the professor came in and said, courteously: "Well 
Strother, my boy, how are we off for money?" 

"Why professor," I answered, "I am sorry to 
say that I have been disappointed, but I expect a 
remittance next week." 

"Next week, " he repeated sadly, "I shall be dead by 
that time." 

"Dead, sir?" 

"Yes, dead by starvation." 

I was distressed and astonished. I said hurriedly : 

"Would ten dollars be of any service?" 

"Ten dollars would save my life. That is all it 
would do." 

I paid the money, all that I had, and we dined to- 
gether. It was a modest meal, but good, and after he 
had finished, he said: 

"This is my first meal for twenty -four hours. 
Strother, don't be an artist. It means beggary. Your 
life depends upon people who know nothing of your art 
and care nothing for you. A house dog lives better, 
and the very sensitiveness that stimulates an artist to 
work keeps him alive to suffering." 1 

In 1835 Morse received an appointment to the 
teaching staff of New York University and moved 

1 Prime, p. 424. 



138 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

his workshop to a room in the University building 
in Washington Square. "There," says his biog- 
rapher, 1 "he wrought through the year 1836, 
probably the darkest and longest year of his life, 
giving lessons to pupils in the art of painting while 
his mind was in the throes of the great invention." 
In that year he took into his confidence one of his 
colleagues in the University, Leonard D. Gale, 
who assisted him greatly in improving the appara- 
tus, while the inventor himself formulated the 
rudiments of the telegraphic alphabet, or Morse 
Code, as it is known today. At length all was 
ready for a test and the message flashed from 
transmitter to receiver. The telegraph was born, 
though only an infant as yet. "Yes, that room of 
the University was the birthplace of the Record- 
ing Telegraph," said Morse years later. On Sep- 
tember 2, 1837, a successful experiment was made 
with seventeen hundred feet of copper wire coiled 
around the room, in the presence of Alfred Vail, a 
student, whose family owned the Speedwell Iron 
Works, at Morristown, New Jersey, and who at 
once took an interest in the invention and per- 
suaded his father, Judge Stephen Vail, to advance 
money for experiments. Morse filed a petition for 
'Prime, p. 311. 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 139 

a patent in October and admitted his colleague 
Gale, as well as Alfred Vail, to partnership. Ex- 
periments followed at the Vail shops, all the part- 
ners working day and night in their enthusiasm. 
The apparatus was then brought to New York and 
gentlemen of the city were invited to the Uni- 
versity to see it work before it left for Washington. 
The visitors were requested to write dispatches, 
and the words were sent round a three-mile coil of 
wire and read at the other end of the room by one 
who had no prior knowledge of the message. 

In February, 1838, Morse set out for Washing- 
ton with his apparatus, and stopped at Philadel- 
phia on the invitation of the Franklin Institute to 
give a demonstration to a committee of that body. 
Arrived at Washington, he presented to Congress a 
petition, asking for an appropriation to enable him 
to build an experimental line. The question of the 
appropriation was referred to the Committee on 
Commerce, who reported favorably, and Morse 
then returned to New York to prepare to go abroad, 
as it was necessary for his rights that his invention 
should be patented in European countries before 
publication in the United States. 

Morse sailed in May, 1838, and returned to 
New York by the steamship Great Western in April, 



140 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

1839. His journey had not been very successful. 
He had found London in the excitement of the 
ceremonies of the coronation of Queen Victoria, 
and the British Attorney-General had refused him 
a patent on the ground that American newspapers 
had published his invention, making it public 
property. In France he had done better. But the 
most interesting result of the journey was some- 
thing not related to the telegraph at all. In Paris 
he had met Daguerre, the celebrated Frenchman 
who had discovered a process of making pictures 
by sunlight, and Daguerre had given Morse the 
secret. This led to the first pictures taken by sun- 
light in the United States and to the first photo- 
graphs of the human face taken anywhere. Da- 
guerre had never attempted to photograph living 
objects and did not think it could be done, as rigid- 
ity of position was required for a long exposure. 
Morse, however, and his associate, John W. Draper, 
were very soon taking portraits successfully. 

Meanwhile the affairs of the telegraph at Wash- 
ington had not prospered. Congress had done 
nothing towards the grant which Morse had re- 
quested, notwithstanding the favorable report of its 
committee, and Morse was in desperate straits for 
money even to live on. He appealed to the Vails 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATIOxN 141 

to assist him further, but they could not, since 
the panic of 1#37 had impaired their resources. 
He earned small sums from his daguerreotypes 
and his teaching. 

By December., 1842, Morse was in funds again; 
sufficiently, at least, to enable him to go to Wash- 
ington for another appeal to Congress. And at 
last, on February 23, 1843, a bill appropriating 
thirty thousand dollars to lay the wires between 
Washington and Baltimore passed the House by a 
majority of six. Trembling with anxiety, Morse 
sat in the gallery of the House while the vote was 
taken and listened to the irreverent badinage of 
Congressmen as they discussed his bill. One mem- 
ber proposed an amendment to set aside half the 
amount for experiments in mesmerism, another 
suggested that the Millerites should have a part of 
the money, and so on; however, they passed the 
bill. And that night Morse wrote: "The long 
agony is over." 

But the agony was not over. The bill had yet to 
pass the Senate. The last day of the expiring session 
of Congress arrived, March 3, 1843, and the Senate 
had not reached the bill . Says Morse's biographer : 

In the gallery of the Senate Professor Morse had sat 
all the last day and evening of the session. At midnight 



142 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

the session would close. Assured by his friends that 
there was no possibility of the bill being reached, he 
left the Capitol and retired to his room at the hotel, 
dispirited, and well-nigh broken-hearted. As he came 
down to breakfast the next morning, a young lady en- 
tered, and, coming toward him with a smile, exclaimed: 

"I have come to congratulate you!" 

"For what, my dear friend? " asked the professor, of 
the young lady, who was Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, 
daughter of his friend the Commissioner of Patents. 

"On the passage of your bill." 

The professor assured her it was not possible, as he 
remained in the Senate-Chamber until nearly mid- 
night, and it was not reached. She then informed him 
that her father was present until the close, and, in the 
last moments of the session, the bill was passed with- 
out debate or revision. Professor Morse was overcome 
by the intelligence, so joyful and unexpected, and gave 
at the moment to his young friend, the bearer of these 
good tidings, the promise that she should send the 
first message over the first line of telegraph that 
was opened. 1 

Morse and his partners 2 then proceeded to the 
construction of the forty-mile line of wire between 
Baltimore and Washington. At this point Ezra 
Cornell, afterwards a famous builder of telegraphs 

1 Prime, p. 465. 

2 The property in the invention was divided into sixteen shares 
(the pari aership having been formed in 1838) of which Morse held 
», Francis O. J. Smith 4, Alfred Vail 2, Leonard D Gale 1. In 
patents to be obtained in foreign countries, Morse was to hold 8 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 143 

and founder of Cornell University, first appears 
in history as a young man of thirty-six. Cornell 
invented a machine to lay pipe underground to 
contain the wires and he was employed to carry 
out the work of construction. The work was com- 
menced at Baltimore and was continued until ex- 
periment proved that the underground method 
would not do, and it was decided to string the 
wires on poles. Much time had been lost, but 
once the system of poles was adopted the work 
progressed rapidly, and by May, 1844, the line 
was completed. On the twenty-fourth of that 
month Morse sat before his instrument in the room 
: of the Supreme Court at Washington. His friend 
1 Miss Ellsworth handed him the message which she 
had chosen: "What hath God wrought!" Morse 
flashed it to Vail forty miles away in Baltimore, and 
Vail instantly flashed back the same momentous 
words, "What hath God wrought!" 

Two days later the Democratic National Con- 
vention met in Baltimore to nominate a President 
t and Vice-President. The leaders of the Convention 



shares, Smith 5, Vail 2, Gale 1. Smith had been a member of 
Congress and Chairman of the Committee on Commerce. He was 
admitted to the partnership in consideration of hia assisting Morse 
to arouse the interest of European Governments. 



144 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

desired to nominate Senator Silas Wright of New 
York, who was then in Washington, as running 
mate to James K. Polk, but they must know 
first whether Wright would consent to run as 
Vice-President. So they posted a messenger off to 
Washington but were persuaded at the same time 
to allow the new telegraph to try what it could do. 
The telegraph carried the offer to Wright and 
carried back to the Convention Wright's refusal of 
the honor. The delegates, however, would not 
believe the telegraph, until their own messenger, 
returning the next day, confirmed its message. 

For a time the telegraph attracted little atten- 
tion. But Cornell stretched the lines across the 
country, connecting city with city, and Morse and 
Vail improved the details of the mechanism and 
perfected the code. Others came after them and 
added further improvements. And it is gratifying 
to know that both Morse and Vail, as well as Cor- 
nell, lived to reap some return for their labor, 
Morse lived to see his telegraph span the continent, 
and link the New World with the Old, and died in 
1872 full of honors. 

Prompt communication of the written or spoken 
message is a demand even more insistent than 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 145 

prompt transportation of men and goods. By 
1859 both the railroad and the telegraph had 
reached the old town of St. Joseph on the Missouri. 
Two thousand miles beyond, on the other side of 
plains and mountains and great rivers, lay pros- 
perous California. The only transportation to 
California was by stage-coach, a sixty days 9 jour- 
ney, or else across Panama, or else round the Horn, 
a choice of three evils. But to establish quicker 
communication, even though transportation might 
lag, the men of St. Joseph organized the Pony 
Express, to cover the great wild distance by riders 
on horseback, in ten or twelve days. Relay 
stations for the horses and men were set up at 
appropriate points all along the way, and a post- 
boy dashed off from St. Joseph every twenty-four 
hours, on arrival of the train from the East. And 
for a time the Pony Express did its work and did 
it well. President Lincoln's First Inaugural was 
carried to California by the Pony Express : so was 
the news of the firing on Fort Sumter. But by 
1862 the Pony Express was quietly superseded by 
the telegraph, which in that year had completed 
its circuits all the way to San Francisco, seven 
years ahead of the first transcontinental railroadc 
And in four more years Cyrus W. Field and Peter 



U6 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Cooper had carried to complete success the Atlan* 
tic Cable; and the Morse telegraph was sending 
intelligence across the sea, as well as from New 
York to the Golden Gate. 

And today ships at sea and stations on land, 
separated by the sea, speak to one another in the 
language of the Morse Code, without the use of 
wires. "Wireless, or radio, telegraphy was the in- 
vention of a nineteen-year-old boy, Guglielmo 
Marconi, an Italian; but it has been greatly ex- 
tended and developed at the hands of four Ameri- 
cans: Fessenden, Alexanderson, Langmuir, and 
Lee De Forest. It was De Forest's invention that 
made possible transcontinental and transatlantic 
telephone service, both with and without wires. 

The story of the telegraph's younger brother, and 
great ally in communication, the telephone of Alex- 
ander Graham Bell, is another pregnant romance of 
American invention. But that is a story by itself , 
and it begins in a later period and so falls within 
the scope of another volume of these Chronicles. 1 

Wise newspapermen stiffened to attention when 
\ 1 1 < ' t elegraph began ticking. The New York Herald. 

1 The Age of Big Business, by Burton J. Hendrick, The Chro®= 
ich.s uf America, vol. xxxix. 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 147 

the Sun, and the Tribune had been founded only 
recently and they represented a new type of jour- 
nalism, swift, fearless, and energetic. The proprie- 
tors of these newspapers saw that this new instru- 
ment was bound to affect all newspaperdom pro- 
foundly. How was the newspaper to cope with the 
situation and make use of the news that was com- 
ing in and would be coming in more and more over 
the wires? 

For one thing, the newspapers needed better 
printing machinery. The application of steam, or 
any mechanical power, to printing in America was 
only begun. It had been introduced by Robert 
Hoe in the very years when Morse was struggling 
to perfect the telegraph. Before that time news- 
papers were printed in the United States, on presses 
operated as Franklin's press had been operated, by 
hand. The New York Sun, the pioneer of cheap 
modern newspapers, was printed by hand in 1833, 
and four hundred impressions an hour was the 
highest speed of one press. There had been, it is 
true, some improvements over Franklin's printing 
press. The Columbian press of George Clymer of 
Philadelphia, invented in 1816, was a step forward. 
The Washington press, patented in 1829 by Samuel 
Rust of New York, was another step forward. 



148 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Then had come Robert Hoe's double-cylinder, 
steam-driven printing press. But a swifter ma- 
chine was wanted. And so in 1845 Richard March 
Hoe, a son of Robert Hoe, invented the revolving 
or rotary press, on the principle of which larger 
and larger machines have been built — machines 
so complex and wonderful that they baffle descrip- 
tion; which take in reels of white paper and turn 
out great newspapers complete, folded and counted, 
at the rate of a hundred thousand copies an hour. 
American printing machines are in use today the 
world over. The London Times is printed on 
American machines. 

Hundreds of new inventions and improvements 
on old inventions followed hard on the growth of 
the newspaper, until it seemed that the last word 
had been spoken. The newspapers had the won- 
derful Hoe presses; they had cheap paper; they had 
excellent type, cast by machinery; they had a 
satisfactory process of multiplying forms of type 
by stereotyping; and at length came a new process 
of making pictures by photo-engraving, supplant- 
ing the old-fashioned process of engraving on wood. 
Meanwhile, however, in one important department 
of the work, the newspapers had made no advance 
vhi'tever. The newspapers of New York in the 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 149 

year 1885, and later, set up their type by the same 
method that Benjamin Franklin used to set up the 
type for The Pennsylvania Gazette. The composi- 
tor stood or sat at his "case," with his "copy" 
before him, and picked the type up letter by letter 
until he had filled and correctly spaced a line. 
Then he would set another line, and so on, all 
with his hands. After the job was completed, the 
type had to be distributed again, letter by letter. 
Typesetting was slow and expensive. 

This labor of typesetting was at last generally 
done away with by the invention of two intricate 
and ingenious machines. The linotype, the inven- 
tion of Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore, came 
first; then the monotype of Tolbert Lanston, a 
native of Ohio. The linotype is the favorite com- 
posing machine for newspapers and is also widely 
used in typesetting for books, though the mono- 
type is preferred by book printers. One or other 
of these machines has today replaced, for the 
most part, the old hand compositors in every large 
printing establishment in the United States. 

While the machinery of the great newspapers was 
being developed, another instrument of commu- 
nication, more humble but hardly less important 



150 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

in modern life, was coming into existence. The 
typewriter is today in every business office and 
is another of America's gifts to the commercial 
world. One might attempt to trace the type- 
writer back to the early seals, or to the name plates 
of the Middle Ages, or to the records of the British 
Patent Office, for 1714, which mention a machine 
for embossing. But it would be difficult to estab- 
lish the identity of these contrivances with the 
modern typewriter. 

Two American devices, one of William Burt in 
1820, for a "typographer, " and another of Charles 
Thurber, of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1843, 
may also be passed over. Alfred Ely Beach made a 
model for a typewriter as early as 1847, but neg- 
lected it for other things, and his next effort in 
printing machines was a device for embossing 
letters for the blind. His typewriter had many of 
the features of the modern typewriter, but lacked a 
satisfactory method of inking the types. This was 
furnished by S. W. Francis of New York, whose 
machine, in 1857, bore a ribbon saturated with 
ink. None of these machines, however, was a 
commercial success. They were regarded merely 
:is the toys of ingenious men. 

The accredited father of the typewriter was 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 151 

a Wisconsin newspaperman, Christopher Latham 
Sholes, editor, politician, and anti-slavery agitator. 
A strike of his printers led him to unsuccessful 
attempts to invent a typesetting machine. He 
did succeed, however, in making, in collaboration 
with another printer, Samuel W. Soule, a number- 
ing machine, and a friend, Carlos Glidden, to whom 
this ingenious contrivance was shown, suggested 
a machine to print letters. 

The three friends decided to try. None had 
studied the efforts of previous experimenters, and 
they made many errors which might have been 
avoided. Gradually, however, the invention took 
form. Patents were obtained in June, 1868, and 
again in July of the same year, but the machine 
was neither strong nor trustworthy. Now ap- 
peared James Densmore and bought a share in the 
machine, while Soule and Glidden retired. Dens- 
more furnished the funds to build about thirty 
models in succession, each a little better than the 
preceding. The improved machine was patented 
in 1871, and the partners felt that they were ready 
to begin manufacturing. 

Wisely they determined, in 1873, to offer their 
machine to Eliphalet Remington and Sons, then 
manufacturing firearms, sewing machines, and the 



152 THE A£E OF INVENTION 

like, at Ilion, New York. Here, in well-equipped 
machine shops it was tested, strengthened, and 
improved. The Remingtons believed they saw a 
demand for the machine and offered to buy the 
patents, paying either a lump sum, or a royalty. 
It is said that Sholes preferred the ready cash and 
received twelve thousand dollars, while Densmore 
chose the royalty and received a million and a half, 

The telegraph, the press, and the typewriter are 
agents of communication for the written word. 
The telephone is an agent for the spoken word. 
And there is another instrument for recording sound 
and reproducing it, which should not be forgotten. 
It was in 1877 that Thomas Alva Edison completed 
the first phonograph. The air vibrations set up by 
the human voice were utilized to make minute in- 
dentations on a sheet of tinfoil placed over a metallic 
cylinder, and the machine would then reproduce the 
sounds which had caused the indentations. The 
record wore out after a few reproductions, bow- 
ever, and Edison was too busy to develop his idea 
further for a time, though later he returned to it. 

The phonograph toda}^ appears under various 
names, bu1 by whatever name they are called, the 
best machines reproduce with wonderful fidelity the 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 153 

human voice, in speech or song, and the tones of 
either a single instrument or a whole orchestra. 
The most distinguished musicians are glad to do 
their best for the preservation and reproduction of 
their art, and through these machines, good music 
is brought to thousands to whom it could come in 
no other way. 

The camera bears a large part in the diffusion of 
intelligence, and the last half century in the United 
States has seen a great development in photogra- 
phy and photo-engraving. The earliest experi- 
ments in photography belong almost exclusively 
to Europe. Morse, as we have seen, introduced 
the secret to America and interested his friend 
John W. Draper, who had a part in the perfection 
of the dry plate and who was one of the first, if 
not the first, to take a portrait by photography. 

The world's greatest inventor in photography is, 
however, George Eastman, of Rochester. It was in 
1888 that Eastman introduced a new camera, 
which he called by the distinctive name Kodak, 
and with it the slogan: "You press the button, 
we do the rest." This first kodak was loaded with 
a roll of sensitized paper long enough for a hundred 
exposures. Sent to the makers, the roll could itself 



154 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

be developed and pictures could be printed from 
it. Eastman had been an amateur photographer 
when the fancy was both expensive and tedious. 
Inventing a method of making dry plates, he 
began to manufacture them in a small way as 
early as 1880. After the first kodak, there came 
others filled with rolls of sensitized nitro-cellulose 
film. Priority in the invention of the cellulose 
film, instead of glass, which has revolutionized 
photography, has been decided by the courts to 
belong to the Reverend Hannibal Goodwin, but 
the honor none the less belongs to Eastman, who 
independently worked out his process and gave 
photography to the millions. The introduction by 
the Eastman Kodak Company of a film cartridge 
which could be inserted or removed without re- 
tiring to a dark room removed the chief difficulty 
in the way of amateurs, and a camera of some 
sort, varying in price from a dollar or two to a? 
many hundreds, is today an indispensable part of a 
vacation equipment. 

In the development of the animated pictures 

Thomas Alva Edison has played a large part. Many 

re the efforts to give the appearance of move- 

'i nl to pictures before the first real entertainment 

iged by Henry Heyl of Philadelphia. Heyl's 



AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION 155 

pictures were on glass plates fixed in the circum- 
ference of a wheel, and each was brought and held 
for a part of a second before the lens. This method 
was obviously too slow and too expensive. Edisou 
with his keen mind approached the difficulty and 
after a prolonged series of experiments arrived at ths 
decision that a continuous tape-like film would be 
necessary. He invented the first practical " taking " 
camera and evoked the enthusiastic cooperation of 
George Eastman in the production of this tape-like 
film, and the modern motion picture was born. The 
projecting machine was substantially like the 
"taking" camera and was so used. Other inventors, 
such as Paul in England and Lumiere in France, 
produced other types of projecting machines, which 
differed only in mechanical details. 

When the motion picture was taken up in earnest 
in the United States, the world stared in aston- 
ishment at the apparent recklessness of the early 
managers. The public responded, however, and 
there is hardly a hamlet in the nation where there 
is not at least one moving-picture house. The most 
popular actors have been drawn from the speaking 
stage into the "movies," and many new actors 
have been developed. In the small town, the 
picture theater is often a converted storeroom, but 



156 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

in the cities, some of the largest and most attrac- 
tive theaters have been given over to the pictures, 
and others even more luxurious have been specially 
built. The Eastman Company alone manufactures 
about ten thousand miles of film every month. 

Besides affording amusement to millions, the 
moving picture has been turned to instruction. 
Important news events are shown on the screen 2 
and historical events are preserved for posterity 
by depositing the films in a vault. What would 
the historical student not give for a film faithfully 
portraying the inauguration of George Washing- 
ton ! The motion picture has become an important 
factor in instruction in history and science in the 
schools and this development is still in its infancy. 



CHAPTER Vn 

THE STORY OF RUBBER 

One day in 1852, at Trenton, New Jersey, there 
appeared in the Circuit Court of the United States 
two men, the legal giants of their day, to argue the 
case of Goodyear vs. Day for infringement of patent. 
Ruf us Choate represented the defendant and Daniel 
Webster the plaintiff. Webster, in the course of his 
plea, one of the most brilliant and moving ever ut- 
tered by him, paused for a moment, drew from him- 
self the attention of those who were hanging upon 
his words, and pointed to his client. He would have 
them look at the man whose cause he pleaded : a man 
of fifty-two, who looked fifteen years older, sallow, 
emaciated from disease, due to long privations, bit- 
ter disappointments, and wrongs. This was Charles 
Goodyear, inventor of the process which put rubber 
into the service of the world. Said Webster: 

And now is Charles Goodyear the discoverer of this in- 
vention of vulcanized rubber? Is he the first man upon 



158 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

whose mind the idea ever flashed, or to whose intelli- 
gence the fact ever was disclosed, that by carrying heat 
to a certain height it would cease to render plastic the 
India Rubber and begin to harden and metallize it? 
Is there a man in the world who found out that fact be- 
fore Charles Goodyear? Who is he? Where is he? 
On what continent does he live? Who has heard of 
him? What books treat of him? What man among all 
the men on earth has seen him, known him, or named 
him? Yet it is certain that this discovery has been 
made. It is certain that it exists. It is certain that it 
is now a matter of common knowledge all over the 
civilized world. It is certain that ten or twelve years 
ago it was not knowledge. It is certain that this cu- 
rious result has grown into knowledge by somebody's 
discovery and invention. And who is that somebody? 
The question was put to my learned opponent by my 
learned associate. If Charles Goodyear did not make 
this discovery, who did make it? Who did make it? 
Why, if our learned opponent had said he should en- 
deavor to prove that some one other than Mr. Good- 
year had made this discovery, that would have been 
very fair. I think the learned gentleman was very 
wise in not doing so. For I have thought often, in the 
course of my practice in law, that it was not very ad- 
visable to raise a spirit that one could not conveniently 
lay again. Now who made this discovery? And would 
it not be proper? I am sure it w^ould. And would it 
not be manly? I am sure it would. Would not my 
learned friend and his coadjutor have acted a more 
noble part, if they had stood up and said that this in- 
vention was not Goodyear's, but it was an invention of 
such and such a man, in this or that country? On the 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 150 

contrary they do not meet Goodyear' s claim by setting 
up a distinct claim of anybody else. They attempt to 
prove thac he was not the inventor by little shreds 
and patches of testimony. Here a little bit of sulphur, 
and there a little parcel of lead; here a little degree of 
heat, a little hotter than would warm a man's hands, 
and in which a man could live for ten minutes or a 
quarter of an hour; and yet they never seem to come to 
the point. I think it is because their materials did not 
allow them to come to the manly assertion that some- 
body else did make this invention, giving to that some- 
body a local habitation and a name. We want to 
know the name, and the habitation, and the location 
of the man upon the face of this globe, who invent- 
ed vulcanized rubber, if it be not he, who now sits 
before us. 

Well there are birds which fly in the air, seldom 
lighting, but o?ten hovering. Now I think this is a 
question not to be hovered over, not to be brooded 
over, and not to be dealt with as an infinitesimal quan- 
tity of small things. It is a case calling for a manly 
admission and a manly defense. I ask again, if there 
is anybody else than Goodyear who made this inven- 
tion, who is he? Is the discovery so plain that it might 
have come about by accident? It is likely to work im- 
portant changes in the arts everywhere. It introduces 
quite a new material into the manufacture of the arts, that 
material being nothing less than elastic metal. It is 
hard like metal and as elastic as pure original gum elas- 
tic. Why, that is as great and momentous a phenome- 
non occurring to men in the progress of their knowl- 
edge, as it would be for a man to show that iron and 
gold could remain iron and gold and yet become elastic 



160 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

like India Rubber. It would be just such another re- 
sult. Now, this fact cannot be denied; it cannot be se- 
creted; it cannot be kept out of sight; somebody has 
made this invention. That is certain. Who is he? 
Mr. Hancock has been referred to. But he expressly 
acknowledges Goodyear to be the first inventor. I say 
that there is not in the world a human being that can 
stand up and say that it is his invention, except the 
man who is sitting at that table. 

The court found for the plaintiff, and this deci- 
sion established for all time the claim of the Ameri- 
can, Charles Goodyear, to be the sole inventor of 
vulcanized rubber. 

This trial may be said to be the dramatic climax 
in the story of rubber. It celebrated the hour 
when the science of invention turned a raw prod- 
uct — which had tantalized by its promise and 
wrought ruin by its treachery — into a manufacture 
adaptable to a thousand uses, adding to man's eas? 
and health and to the locomotion, construction, 
and communication of modern life. 

When Columbus revisited Hayti on his second 
voyage, he observed some natives playing with s\ 
ball. Now, ball games are the oldest sport known. 
Prom the beginning of his history man, like the 
kitten and the puppy, has delighted to play with 
the round thing that rolls. The men who came 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 161 

with Columbus to conquer the Indies had brought 
their Castilian wind-balls to play with in idle 
hours. But at once they found that the balls of 
Hayti were incomparably superior toys; they 
bounced better. These high bouncing balls were 
made, so they learned, from a milky fluid of the 
j consistency of honey which the natives procured 
by tapping certain trees and then cured over the 
smoke of palm nuts. A discovery which improved 
the delights of ball games was noteworthy. 

The old Spanish historian, Herrera, gravely 
transcribed in his pages all that the governors of 
Hayti reported about the bouncing balls. Some 
fifty years later another Spanish historian related 
that the natives of the Amazon valley made shoes 
of this gum; and that Spanish soldiers spread their 
cloaks with it to keep out the rain. Many years 
later still, in 1736, a French astronomer, who was 
sent by his government to Peru to measure an arc 
of the meridian, brought home samples of the gum, 
and reported that the natives make lights of it 
"which burn without a wick and are very bright," - 
and "shoes of it which are waterproof, and when 
smoked they have the appearance of leather. They 
also make pear-shaped bottles on the necks of 
which they fasten wooden tubes. Pressure on the 



162 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

bottle sends the liquid squirting out of the tube, 
so they resemble syringes." Their name for the 
fluid, he added, was "cachuchu" — caoutchouc, 
we now write it. Evidently the samples filled no 
important need at the time, for we hear no more of 
the gum until thirty-four years afterward. Then, 
so an English writer tells us, a use was found for 
the gum — and a name. A stationer accidentally 
discovered that it would erase pencil marks, And, 
as it came from the Indies and rubbed, of course it 
was "India rubber." 

About the year 1820 American merchantmen, 
plying between Brazil and New England, some- 
times carried rubber as ballast on the home voyage 
and dumped it on the wharves at Boston. One of 
the shipmasters exhibited to his friends a pair of 
native shoes fancifully gilded. Another, with more 
foresight, brought home five hundred pairs, un- 
gilded, and offered them for sale. They were thick, 
clumsily shaped, and heavy, but they sold. There 
was a demand for more. In a few years half a 
million pairs were being imported annually. New 
England manufacturers bid against one another 
along the wharves for the gum which had been 
used as ballast and began to make rubber shoes- 

European vessels had also carried rubber homei 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 163 

and experiments were being made with it in France 
and Britain. A Frenchman manufactured sus- 
penders by cutting a native bottle into fine threads 
and running them through a narrow cloth web. 
And Macintosh, a chemist of Glasgow, inserted 
rubber treated with naphtha between thin pieces 
of cloth and evolved the garment that still bears 
his name. 

At first the new business in rubber yielded profits. 
The cost of the raw material was infinitesimal; and 
there was a demand for the finished articles. In 
Roxbury, Massachusetts, a firm manufacturing 
patent leather treated raw rubber with turpentine 
&nd lampblack and spread it on cloth, in an effort 
to produce a waterproof leather. The process ap- 
peared to be a complete success, and a large capital 
was employed to make handsome shoes and cloth- 
ing out of the new product and in opening shops in 
the large cities for their sale. Merchants throughout 
the country placed orders for these goods, which, as 
it happened, were made and shipped in winter. 

But, when summer came, the huge profits of the 
manufacturers literally melted away, for the beau- 
tiful garments decomposed in the heat; and loads 
of them, melting and running together, were being 
returned to the factory. And they filled Roxbury 



164 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

with such noisome odors that they had to be taken 
out at dead of night and buried deep in the earth. 

x\nd not only did these rubber garments melt in 
the heat. It presently transpired that severe frost 
stiffened them to the rigidity of granite. Daniel 
^Webster had had some experience in this matter 
himself. "A friend in New York," he said, "sent 
me a very fine cloak of India Rubber, and a hat of 
the same material. I did not succeed very well 
w T ith them. I took the cloak one day and set it out 
in the cold. It stood very well by itself. I sur- 
mounted it with the hat, and many persons passing 
by supposed they saw, standing by the porch, the 
Farmer of Marshfield." 

It was in the year 1834, shortly after the Rox- 
bury manufacturers had come to realize that their 
process was worthless and that their great fortune 
was only a mirage, and just before these facts 
became generally known, that Charles Goodyear 
made his entrance on the scene. He appeared first 
as a customer in the company's store in New York 
and Ixnight a rubber life-preserver. When he re- 
turned some weeks later with a plan for improving 
the tube, the manager confided to him the sad 
tragedy of rubber, pointing out that no improve- 
n wnl iu the manufactured articles would meet the 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 165 

difficulty, but that fame and fortune awaited the 
inventor of a process that would keep rubber dry 
and firm and flexible in all weathers. 

Goodyear felt that he had a call from God. "He 
who directs the operations of the mind, " he wrote 
at a later date, "can turn it to the development of 
the properties of Nature in his own way, and at the 
time when they are specially needed. The creature 
imagines he is executing some plan of his own, 
while he is simply an instrument in the hands of 
his Maker for executing the divine purposes of 
beneficence to the race." It was in the spirit of a 
crusader, consecrated to a particular service, that 
this man took up the problem of rubber. The 
words quoted are a fitting preface for the story of 
the years that followed, which is a tale of endurance 
and persistent activity under sufferings and dis- 
appointments such as are scarcely paralleled even 
in the pages of invention, darkened as they often 
are by poverty and defeat. 

Charles Goodyear was born at New Haven, 
December 29, 1800, the son of Amasa Goodyear 
and descendant of Stephen Goodyear who was 
associated with Theophilus Eaton, the first gover- 
nor of the Puritan colony of New Haven. It 
was natural that Charles should turn his mind to 



166 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

invention, as he did even when a boy ; for his father, 
a pioneer in the manufacture of American hard- 
ware, was the inventor of a steel hayfork which 
replaced the heavy iron fork of prior days and light- 
ened and expedited the labor of the fields. When 
Charles was seven his father moved to Naugatuck 
and manufactured the first pearl buttons made in 
America; during the War of 1812 the Goodyear 
factory supplied metal buttons to the Govern- 
ment. Charles, a studious, serious boy, was the 
close companion of his father. His deeply religious 
nature manifested itself early, and he joined the 
Congregational Church when he was sixteen. It 
was at first his intention to enter the ministry, 
which seemed to him to offer the most useful career 
of service, but, changing his mind, he went to Phila- 
delphia to learn the hardware business and on 
coming of age was admitted to partnership in a 
firm established there by his father. The firm 
prospered for a time, but an injudicious extension 
of credit led to its suspension. So it happened that 
Goodyear in 1834, when he became interested in 
rubber, was an insolvent debtor, liable, under the 
laws of the time, to imprisonment. Soon after- 
ward, indeed, he was lodged in the Debtor's Prisoi* 
in Philadelphia. 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 167 

It would seem an inauspicious hour to begin a 
search which might lead him on in poverty for 
years and end nowhere. But, having seen the need 
for perfect rubber, the thought had come to him, 
with the force of a religious conviction, that "an 
object so desirable and so important, and so neces- 
sary to man's comfort, as the making of gum- 
elastic available to his use, was most certainly 
placed within his reach." Thereafter he never 
doubted that God had called him to this task and 
that his efforts would be crowned with success. 
Concerning his prison experiences, of which the 
first was not to be the last, he says that "notwith- 
standing the mortification attending such a trial," 
if the prisoner has a real aim "for which to live and 
hope over he may add firmness to hope, and derive 
lasting advantage by having proved to himself 
that, with a clear conscience and a high purpose, a 
man may be as happy within prison walls as in 
any other (even the most fortunate) circumstances 
in life." With this spirit he met every reverse 
throughout the ten hard years that followed. 

Luckily, as he says, his first experiments re- 
quired no expensive equipment. Fingers were the 
best tools for working the gum. The prison officials 
allowed him a bench and a marble slab, a friend 



168 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

procured him a few dollars' worth of gum, which 
sold then at five cents a pound, and his wife con- 
tributed her rolling pin. That was the beginning. 
For a time he believed that, by mixing the raw 
gum with magnesia and boiling it in lime, he had 
overcome the stickiness which was the inherent 
difficulty. He made some sheets of white rubber 
which were exhibited, and also some articles for 
sale. His hopes were dashed when he found that 
weak acid, such as apple juice or vinegar, destroyed 
his new product. Then in 1836 he found that the 
application of aqua fortis, or nitric acid, produced 
a "curing" effect on the rubber and thought that 
he had discovered the secret. Finding a partner 
with capital, he leased an abandoned rubber fac- 
tory on Staten Island. But his partner's fortune 
was swept away in the panic of 1837, leaving Good- 
year again an insolvent debtor. Later he found 
another partner and went to manufacturing in the 
deserted plant at Roxbury, with an order from the 
Government for a large number of mail bags. This 
order was given wide publicity and it aroused the 
interest of manufacturers throughout the country. 
But by the time the goods were ready for delivery 
the first bags made had rotted from their handles. 
Only the surface of the rubber had been "cured." 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 169 

This failure was the last straw, as far as Good- 
year's friends were concerned. Only his patient 
and devoted wife stood by him; she had labored, 
known want, seen her children go hungry to school, 
but she seems never to have reproached her hus- 
band nor to have doubted his ultimate success. 
The gentleness and tenderness of his deportment 
in the home made his family cling to him with 
deep affection and bear willingly any sacrifice for 
his sake; though his successive failures generally 
meant a, return of the inventor to the debtor's 
prison and the casting of his family upon charity. 

The nitric acid process had not solved the prob- 
lem but it had been a real step forward. It was in 
the year 1839, by an accident, that he discovered 
the true process of vulcanization which cured not 
the surface alone but the whole mass. He was try- 
ing to harden the gum by boiling it with sulphur 
on his wife's cookstove when he let fall a lump 
of it on the red hot iron top. It vulcanized in- 
stantly. This was an accident which only Goodyear 
could have interpreted. And it was the last. The 
strange substance from the jungles of the tropics 
had been mastered. It remained, however, to per- 
fect the process, to ascertain the accurate formula 
and the exact degree of heat. 



170 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

The Goodyears were so poor during these years 
that they received at any time a barrel of flour 
from a neighbor thankfully. There is a tradition 
that on one occasion, when Goodyear desired to 
cross between Staten Island and New York, he had 
to give his umbrella to the ferry master as security 
for his fare, and that the name of the ferry mas- 
ter was Cornelius Vanderbilt, "a man who made 
much money because he took few chances." The 
incident may easily have occurred, though the ferry 
master could hardly have been Vanderbilt himself, 
unless it had been at an earlier date. Another tra- 
dition says that one of Goodyear's neighbors de- 
scribed him to an inquisitive stranger thus: "You 
will know him when you see him; he has on an In- 
dia rubber cap, stock, coat, vest, and shoes, and an 
India rubber purse without a cent in it!" 

Goodyear's trials were only beginning. He had 
the secret at last, but nobody would believe him. 
He had worn out even the most sanguine of his 
friends . ' ' That such indifference to this discovery, 
and many incidents attending it, could have ex- 
isted in an intelligent and benevolent community," 
wrote Goodyear later, "can only be accounted for 
by existing circumstances in that community. 
The great losses that had been sustained in the 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 171 

manufacture of gum-elastic : the length of time the 
inventor had spent in what appeared to them to 
be entirely fruitless efforts to accomplish anything 
with it; added to his recent misfortunes and disap- 
pointments, all conspired, with his utter destitu- 
tion, to produce a state of things as unfavorable to 
the promulgation of the discovery as can well be 
imagined. He, however, felt in duty bound to beg 
in earnest, if need be, sooner than that the discov- 
ery should be lost to the world and to himself. 
. . . How he subsisted at this period charity 
alone can tell, for it is as well to call things by their 
right names ; and it is little else than charity when 
the lender looks upon what he parts with as a gift. 
The pawning or selling some relic of better days or 
some article of necessity was a frequent expedient. 
His library had long since disappeared, but shortly 
after the discovery of this process, he collected and 
sold at auction the schoolbooks of his children, 
which brought him the trifling sum of five dollars ; 
small as the amount was, it enabled him to proceed. 
At this step he did not hesitate. The occasion, 
and the certainty of success, warranted the meas- 
ure which, in other circumstances, would have 
been sacrilege." 

His itinerary during those years is eloquent. 



172 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Wherever there was a man, who had either a grain 
of faith in rubber or a little charity for a frail and 
penniless monomaniac, thither Goodyear made his 
way. The goal might be an attic room or shed to 
live in rent free, or a few dollars for a barrel of flour 
for the family and a barrel of rubber for himself, or 
permission to use a factory's ovens after hours and 
to hang his rubber over the steam valves while 
work went on. From Woburn in 1839, the year of 
his great discovery, he went to Lynn, from Lynn 
back to the deserted factory at Roxbury. Again to 
Woburn, to Boston, to Northampton, to Spring- 
field, to Naugatuck; in five years as many removes. 
When he lacked boat or railway fare, and he gener- 
ally did, he walked through winds and rains and 
drifting snow, begging shelter at some cottage or 
farm where a window lamp gleamed kindly. 

Goodyear took out his patent in 1844. The pro- 
cess he invented has been changed little, if at all, 
from that day to this. He also invented the perfect 
India rubber cloth by mixing fiber with the gum — 
a discovery he considered rightly as secondary in 
importance only to vulcanization. Wlien he died 
in 1860 he had taken out sixty patents on rubber 
manufactures. He had seen his invention applied 
to several hundred uses, giving employment to 



THE STORY OF RUBBER 173 

sixty thousand persons, producing annually eight 
million dollars' worth of merchandise — numbers 
which would form but a fraction of the rubber 
statistics of today. 

Everybody, the whole civilized world round, 
uses rubber in one form or another. And rubber 
makes a belt around the world in its natural as well 
as in its manufactured form. The rubber-bearing 
zone winds north and south of the equator through 
both hemispheres. In South America rubber is the 
latex of certain trees, in Africa of trees and vines. 
The best, "wild" rubber still comes from Para in 
Brazil. It is gathered and prepared for shipment 
there today by the same methods the nati\es used 
four hundred years ago. The natives in their ca- 
noes follow the watercourses into the jungles. They 
cut V-shaped or spiral incisions in the trunks of the 
trees that grow sheer to sixty feet before spreading 
their shade. At the base of the incisions they affix 
small clay cups, like swallows' nests. Over the 
route they return later with large gourds in which 
they collect the fluid from the clay cups. The 
filled gourds they carry to their village of grass huts 
and there they build their smoky fires of oily palm 
nuts. Dipping paddles into the fluid gum they 
turn and harden it, a coating at a time, in the 



174 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

smoke. The rubber "biscuit" is cut from the 
paddle with a wet knife when the desired thickness 
has been attained. 

Goodyear lived for sixteen years after his dis- 
covery of the vulcanization process. During the 
last six he was unable to walk without crutches. 
He was indifferent to money. To make his dis- 
coveries of still greater service to mankind was his 
whole aim. It was others who made fortunes out 
of his inventions. Goodyear died a poor man. 

In his book, a copy of which was printed on gum- 
elastic sheets and bound in hard rubber carved, he 
summed up his philosophy in this statement: "The 
writer is not disposed to repine and say that he has 
planted and others have gathered the fruits. The 
advantages of a career in life should not be es- 
timated exclusively by the standard of dollars and 
cents, as it is too often done. Man has just cause 
for regret when he sows and no one reaps/' 






CHAPTER Vm 

PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 

There is a tinge of melancholy about the life of 
such a pioneer as Oliver Evans, that early Amer- 
ican mechanic of great genius, whose story is 
briefly outlined in a preceding chapter. Here was 
a man of imagination and sensibility, as well as 
practical power; conferring great benefits on his 
countrymen, yet in chronic poverty; derided by his 
neighbors, robbed by his beneficiaries; his property, 
the fruit of his brain and toil, in the end malevo- 
lently destroyed. The lot of the man who sees 
far ahead of his time, and endeavors to lead his fel- 
lows in ways for which they are not prepared, has 
always been hard. 

John Stevens, too, as we have seen, met defeat 
when he tried to thrust a steam railroad on a coun- 
try that was not yet ready for it. His mechanical 
conceptions were not marked by genius equal to 
that of Evans, but they were still too far advanced 

17fi 



176 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

to be popular. The career of Stevens, however, 
presents a remarkable contrast to that of Evans in 
other respects. Evans was born poor (in Delaware, 
1755) and remained poor all his life. Stevens was 
born rich (in New York City, 1749) and remained 
rich all his life. Of the family of Evans nothing is 
known either before or after him. Stevens, on the 
contrary, belonged to one of the best known and 
most powerful families in America. His grand- 
father, John Stevens I, came from England in 1699 
and made himself a lawyer and a great landowner. 
Hi? father, John Stevens II, was a member from 
New Jersey of the Continental Congress and pre- 
sided at the New Jersey Convention which ratified 
the Constitution. 

John Stevens III was graduated at Bang's Col- 
lege (Columbia) in 1768. He held public offices 
during the Revolution. To him, perhaps more 
than to any other man, is due the Patent Act of 
1790, for the protection of American inventors, for 
that law was the result of a petition which he made 
to Congress and which, being referred to a com- 
mittee, was favorably reported. Thus we may re- 
gard John Stevens as the father of the American 
patent law. 

John Stevens owned the old Dutch farm on the 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 177 

Hudson on which the city of Hoboken now stands. 
! The place had been in possession of the Bayard 
family, but William Bayard, who lived there at the 
., time of the Revolution, was a Loyalist, and his 
i house on Castle Point was burned down and his 
estate confiscated. After the Revolution Stevens 
acquired the property. He laid it out as a town in 
1804, made it his summer residence, and estab- 
lished there the machine shops in w T hich he and his 
sons carried on their mechanical experiments. 

These shops were easily the largest and best- 
equipped in the Union when in 1838 John Stevens 
died at the age of ninety. The four brothers, John 
Cox, Robert Livingston, James Alexander, and 
Edwin Augustus, worked harmoniously together. 
"No one ever heard of any quarrel or dissension in 
the Stevens family. They were workmen them- 
selves, and they were superior to their subordinates 
because they were better engineers and better men 
of business than any other folk who up to that time 
had undertaken the business of transportation in 
the United States." 1 

The youngest of these brothers, Edwin Augus- 
tus Stevens, dying in 1868, left a large part of his 

1 Abram S. Hewitt. Quoted in lies. Leading American In* 
tentors, p. 37. 
12 



178 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

fortune to found the Stevens Institute of Technol 
ogy, afterwards erected at Hoboken not far from the 
old family homestead on Castle Point. The me- 
chanical star of the family, however, was the second 
brother, Robert Livingston Stevens, whose many 
inventions made for the great improvement of 
transportation both by land and water. For a 
quarter of a century, from 1815 to 1840, he was the 
foremost builder of steamboats in America, and 
under his hand the steamboat increased amazingly 
in speed and efficiency. He made great contribu- 
tions to the railway. The first locomotives ran 
upon wooden stringers plated with strap iron. A 
loose end — "a snakehead" it was called — some- 
times curled up and pierced through the floor of a 
car, causing a wreck. The solid metal T-rail, now 
in universal use, was designed by Stevens and was 
first used on the Camden and Amboy Railroad, of 
which he was president and his brother Edwin 
treasurer and manager. The swivel truck and the 
cow-catcher, the modern method of attaching rails 
to ties, the vestibule car, and many improvements 
in the locomotive were also first introduced on the 
Stevens road. 

The Stevens brothers exerted their influence also 
on naval construction. A double invention of 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 179 

Robert and Edwin, the forced draft, to augment 
steam power and save coal, and the air-tight fire- 
room, which they applied to their own vessels, was 
afterwards adopted by all navies. Robert designed 
and projected an ironclad battleship, the first one 
in the world. This vessel, called the Stevens Bat- 
: tery, was begun by authority of the Government in 
1842; but, owing to changes in the design and in- 
adequate appropriations by Congress, it was never 
launched. It lay for many years in the basin at 
Hoboken an unfinished hulk. Robert died in 1856. 
On the outbreak of the Civil War, Edwin tried to 
revive the interest of the Government, but by that 
time the design of the Stevens Battery was obso- 
lete, and Edwin Stevens was an old man. So the 
honors for the construction of the first ironclad 
i; man-of-war to fight and win a battle went to John 
Ericsson, that other great inventor, who built the 
famous Monitor for the Union Government. 

Carlyle's oft-quoted term, "Captains of Indus- 
try, " may fittingly be applied to the Stevens 
pamily. Strong, masterful, and farseeing, they 
lused ideas, their own and those of others, in a large 
rway, and were able to succeed where more timor- 
: ous inventors failed. Without the stimulus of pov- 
! erty they achieved success, making in their shops 



180 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

that combination of men and material which not 
only added to their own fortunes but also served 
the world. 

We left Eli Whitney defeated in his efforts to di- 
vert to himself some adequate share of the untold 
riches arising from his great invention of the cct- 
ton gin. Whitney, however, had other sources cf 
profit in his own character and mechanical ability. 
As early as 1798 he had turned his talents to the 
manufacture of firearms. He had established his 
shops at Whitney ville, near New Haven; and it was 
there that he worked out another achievement quite 
as important economically as the cotton gin, even 
though the immediate consequences were less spec- 
tacular: namely, the principle of standardization 
or interchanges bility in manufacture. 

This principle is the very foundation today of all 
American large-scale production. The manufac- 
turer produces separately thousands of copies of 
every part of a complicated machine, confident 
that an equal number of the complete machine will 
be assembled and set in motion. The owner of a 
motor car, a reaper, a tractor, or a sewing machine, 
orders, perhaps by telegraph or telephone, a broken 
or lost part, taking it for granted that the new part 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP iSI 

can be fitted easily and precisely into the place of 
the old. 

Though it is probable that this idea of standard- 
ization, or interchangeability, originated independ- 
ently in Whitney's mind, and though it is certain 
that he and one of his neighbors, who will be men- 
tioned presently, were the first manufacturers in 
the world to carry it out successfully in practice, 
yet it must be noted that the idea was not entirely 
new. We are told that the system was already in 
operation in England in the manufacture of ship's 
blocks. From no less an authority than Thomas 
Jefferson we learn that a French mechanic had 
previously conceived the same idea. 1 But, as no 
general result whatever came from the idea in 
either France or England, the honors go to Whit- 
ney and North, since they carried it to such com- 
plete success that it spread to other branches of 
manufacturing. And in the face of opposition. 
When Whitney wrote that his leading object was 
"to substitute correct and effective operations of 
machinery for that skill of the artist which is ac- 
quired only by long practice and experience," in 
order to make the same parts of different guns "as 

1 See the letter from Jefferson to John Jay, of April 30, 1785, 
dted in Roe, English an* American Tool Builders, p. 129. 



182 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

much like each other as the successive impressions 
of a copper-plate engraving," he was laughed to 
scorn by the ordnance officers of France and Eng- 
land. "Even the Washington officials," says Roe, 
"were sceptical and became uneasy at advancing 
so much money without a single gun having been 
completed, and Whitney went to Washington, tak- 
ing with him ten pieces of each part of a mus- 
ket. He exhibited these to the Secretary of War 
and the army officers interested, as a succession 
of piles of different parts. Selecting indiscrimin- 
ately from each of the piles, he put together ten 
muskets, an achievement which was looked on 
with amazement." 1 

While Whitney worked out his plans at Whitney- 
ville, Simeon North, another Connecticut mechanic 
and a gunmaker by trade, adopted the same sys- 
tem. North's first shop was at Berlin. He after- 
wards moved to Middletown. Like Whitney, he 
used methods far in advance of the time. Both 
Whitney and North helped to establish the United 
States Arsenals at Springfield, Massachusetts, and 
at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in which their meth- 
ods were adopted. Both the Whitney and North 
plants survived their founders. Just before the 

1 Roc, English and American Tool Builders, p. 138. 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 183 

Mexican War the Whitney plant began to use steel 
for gun barrels, and Jefferson Davis, Colonel of the 
Mississippi Rifles, declared that the new guns were 
"the best rifles which had ever been issued to any 
regiment in the world." Later, when Davis be- 
came Secretary of War, he issued to the regular 
army the same weapon. 

The perfection of Whitney's tools and machines 
made it possible to employ workmen of little skill 
or experience. "Indeed so easy did Mr. Whitney 
find it to instruct new and inexperienced workmen, 
that he uniformly preferred to do so, rather than 
to combat the prejudices of those who had learned 
the business under a different system." 1 This reli- 
ance upon the machine for precision and speed has 
been a distinguishing mark of American manufac- 
ture. A man or a woman of little actual mechan- 
ical skill may make an excellent machine tender, 
learning to perform a few simple motions with 
great rapidity. 

Whitney married in 1817 Miss Henrietta Ed- 
wards, daughter of Judge Pierpont Edwards, of 
New Haven, and granddaughter of Jonathan Ed- 
wards. His business prospered, and his high char- 
acter, agreeable manners, and sound judgment won 

1 Denison Olmstead, Memoir, cited by Roe, p. 159. 



184 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

for him the highest regard of all who knew him; 
and he had a wide circle of friends. It is said that 
he was on intimate terms with every President of 
the United States from George Washington to John 
Quincy Adams. But his health had been impaired 
by hardships endured in the South, in the long 
struggle over the cotton gin, and he died in 1825, 
at the age of fifty-nine. The business which he 
founded remained in his family for ninety years. 
It was carried on after his death by two of his neph- 
ews and then by his son, until 1888, when it was 
sold to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company 
of New Haven. 

Here then, in these early New England gun- 
shops, was born the American system of inter- 
changeable manufacture. Its growth depended 
upon the machine tool, that is, the machine for 
making machines. Machine tools, of course, did 
not originate in America. English mechanics were 
making machines for cutting metal at least a gen- 
eration before Whitney. One of the earliest of 
these English pioneers was John Wilkinson, inven- 
tor and maker of the boring machine which enabled 
Boulton and Watt in 1776 to bring their steam 
engine to the point of practicability. Without 
this machine Watt found it impossible to bore his 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 185 

cylinders with the necessary degree of accuracy, * 
From this one fact, that the success of the steam 
engine depended upon the invention of a new tool, 
we may judge of whal a great part the inventors of 
machine tools, of whom thousands are unnamed 
and unknown, have played in the industrial world. 

So it was in the shops of the New England gun- 
makers that machine tools were first made of such 
variety and adaptability that they could be applied 
generally to other branches of manufacturing; and 
so it was that the system of interchangeable manu- 
facture arose as a distinctively American develop- 
ment. We have already seen how England's policy 
of keeping at home the secrets of her machinery led 
to the independent development of the spindles and 
looms of New England. The same policy affected 
the tool industry in America in the same way and 
bred in the new country a race of original and 
resourceful mechanics. 

One of these pioneers was Thomas Blanchard, 
born in 1788 on a farm in Worcester County, 
Massachusetts, the home also of Eli Whitney and 
Elias Howe. Tom began his mechanical career at 
the age of thirteen by inventing a device to pare 
apples. At the age of eighteen he went to work in 

1 Roe, English and American Tool Builders, p. 1 et seq. 



186 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

his brother's shop, where tacks were made by hand, 
and one day took to his brother a mechanical de- 
vice for counting the tacks tc go into a single pack- 
et. The invention was adopted and was found to 
save the labor of one workman, Tom's next 
achievement was a machine to make tacks, on 
which he spent six years and the rights of which he 
sold for five thousand dollars. It was worth far 
more, for it revolutionized the tack industry, but 
such a sum was to young Blanchard a great fortune. 

The tack-making machine gave Blanchard a 
reputation, and he was presently sought out by a 
gun manufacturer, to see whether he could improve 
the lathe for turning the barrels of the guns. Blan- 
chard could; and did. His next problem was to 
invent a lathe for turning the irregular wooden 
stocks. Here he also succeeded and produced a 
lathe that would copy precisely and rapidly any 
pattern. It is from this invention that the name of 
Blanchard is best known. The original machine i^ 
preserved in the United States Armory at Spring- 
field, to which Blanchard was attached for many 
years, and where scores of the descendants of his 
copying lathe may be seen in action today. 

Turning gunstocks was, of course, only one of the 
many uses of Blanchard's copying lathe. Its chief 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 18? 

use, in fact, was in the production of wooden lasts 
for the shoemakers of New England, but it was 
applied to many branches of wood manufacture, 
and later on the same principle was applied to the 
shaping of metal. 

Blanchard was a man of many ideas. He built 
a steam vehicle for ordinary roads and was an early 
advocate of railroads; he built steamboats to ply 
upon the Connecticut and incidentally produced in 
connection with these his most profitable inven- 
tion, a machine to bend ship's timbers without 
splintering them. The later years of his life were 
spent in Boston, and he often served as a patent ex- 
pert in the courts, where his wide knowledge, hard 
common sense, incisive speech, and homely wit 
made him a welcome witness. 

We now glance at another New England inven- 
tor, Samuel Colt, the man who carried Whitney's 
conceptions to transcendent heights, the most 
dashing and adventurous of all the pioneers of the 
machine shop in America. If "the American fron- 
tier was Elizabethan in quality," there was surely 
a touch of the Elizabethan spirit on the man whose 
invention so greatly affected the character of that 
frontier: Samuel Colt was born at Hartford in 
1814 and died there in 1862 at the age of forty-eight.. 



188 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

leaving behind him a famous name and a eolos* 
sal industry of his own creation. His father was a 
small manufacturer of silk and woolens at Hart- 
ford, and the boy entered the factory at a very 
early age. At school in Amherst a little later, he 
fell under the displeasure of his teachers. At thir- 
teen he took to sea, as a boy before the mast, on the 
East India voyage to Calcutta. It was on this voy- 
age that he conceived the idea of the revolver and 
whittled out a wooden model. On his return he 
went into his father's works and gained a superficial 
knowledge of chemistry from the manager of the 
bleaching and dyeing department. Then he took to 
the road for three years and traveled from Quebec 
to New Orleans lecturing on chemistry under the 
name of "Dr. Coult." The main feature of his lec- 
ture was the administration of nitrous oxide gas to 
volunteers from the audience, whose antics and the 
amusing showman's patter made the entertainment 
very popular. 

Colt's ambition, however, soared beyond the 
occupation of itinerant showman, and he never for- 
got his revolver. As soon as he had money enough, 
he made models of the new arm and took out his 
patents; and, having enlisted the interest of capital, 
he set up the Patent Arms Company at Paterson, 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 189 

New Jersey, to manufacture the revolver. He did 
not succeed in having the revolver adopted by the 
Government, for the army officers for a long time 
objected to the percussion cap (an invention, by 
the way, then some twenty years old, which was 
just coming into use and without which Colt's 
revolver would not have been practicable) and 
thought that the new weapon might fail in an 
emergency. Colt found a market in Texas and 
among the frontiersmen who were fighting the 
Seminole War in Florida, but the sales were in- 
sufficient, and in 1842 the company was obliged 
to confess insolvency and close down the plant. 
Colt bought from the company the patent of the 
revolver, which was supposed to be worthless. 

Nothing more happened until after the outbreak 
of the Mexican War in 1846. Then came a loud 
call from General Zachary Taylor for a supply of 
Colt's revolvers. Colt had none. He had sold the 
last one to a Texas ranger. He had not even a 
model. Yet he took an order from the Govern- 
ment for a thousand and proceeded to construct a 
model. For the manufacture of the revolvers he 
arranged with the Whitney plant at Whitneyville. 
There he saw and scrutinized every detail of the 
factory system that Eli Whitney had established 



190 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

forty years earlier. He resolved to have a plant Oi 
his own on the same system and one that would far 
surpass Whitney's. Next year (1848) he rented 
premises in Hartford. His business prospered and 
increased. At last the Government demanded his 
revolvers. Within five years he had procured a 
site of two hundred and fifty acres fronting the 
Connecticut River at Hartford, and had there be- 
gun the erection of the greatest arms factory in 
the world. 

Colt was a captain of captains. The ablest me- 
chanic and industrial organizer in New England at 
that time was Elisha K, Root. Colt went after 
him, outbidding every other bidder for his services, 
and brought him to Hartford to supervise the erec- 
tion of the new factory and set up its machinery. 
Root was a great superintendent, and the phe- 
nomenal success of the Colt factory was due in a 
marked degree to him. He became president of the 
company after Colt's death in 1862, ahd under him 
were trained a large number of mechanics and in- 
ventors of new machine tools, who afterwards 
became celebrated leaders and officers in the 
industrial armies of the country. 

The spectacular rise of the Colt factory at Hart- 
ford drew the attention of the British Government, 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 191 

and in 1854 Colt was invited to appear in London 
before a Parliamentary Committee on Small Arms. 
He lectured the members of the committee as if 
they had been school boys, telling them that the 
regular British gun was so bad that he would be 
ashamed to have it come from his shop. Speaking 
of a plant which he had opened in London the year 
before he criticized the supposedly skilled British 
mechanic, saying: "I began here by employing the 
highest-priced men that I could find to do difficult 
things, but I had to remove the whole of these high- 
priced men. Then I tried the cheapest I could find, 
and the more ignorant a man was, the more brains 
he had for my purpose ; and the result was this : I 
had men now in my employ that I started with at 
two shillings a day, and in one short year I can 
not spare them at eight shillings a day." x Colt's 
audacity, however, did not offend the members of 
the committee and they decided to visit his Amer- 
ican factory at Hartford. They did; and were so 
impressed that the British Government purchased 
in America a full set of machines for the manufac- 
ture of arms in the Royal Small Arms factory at 
Enfield, England, and took across the sea American 
workmen and foremen to set up and run these 

1 Henry Barnard, Armsmear, p. 371. 



192 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

machines. A demand sprang up in Europe for Blan- 
chard copying lathes and a hundred other Amer- 
ican tools, and from this time on the manufacture 
of tools and appliances for other manufacturers^ 
both at home and abroad, became an increasingly 
important industry of New England. 

The system which the gunmakers worked out 
and developed to meet their own requirements was 
capable of indefinite expansion. It was easily 
adapted to other kinds of manufacture. So it was 
that as new inventions came in the manufacturers 
of these found many of the needed tools ready for 
them, and any special modifications could be quick- 
ly made. A manufacturer of machine tools will 
produce on demand a device to perform any opera- 
tion, however difficult or intricate. Some of the 
machines are so versatile that specially designed 
sets of cutting edges will adapt them to almost 
any work. 

Standardization, due to the machine tool, is one 
of the chief glories of American manufacturing. 
Accurate watches and clocks, bicycles and motor 
cars, innumerable devices to save labor in the home, 
the office, the shop, or on the farm, are within the 
reach of all, because the machine tool, tended by 
labor comparatively unskilled, does the greater 



PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP 193 

part of the work of production. In the crisis of the 
World War, American manufacturers, turning from 
the arts of peace, promptly adapted their plants 
to the manufacture of the most complicated engines 
of destruction, which were produced in Europe 
only by skilled macninists 01 tne highest class. 

S3 



CHAPTER TX 

THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 

It may startle some reader to be told that the 
foundations of modern electrical science were de- 
finitely established in the Elizabethan Age. The 
England of Elizabeth, of Shakespeare, of Drake 
and the sea-dogs, is seldom thought of as the cradle 
of the science of electricity. Nevertheless, it was; 
just as surely as it was the birthplace of the Shake- 
spearian drama, of the Authorized Version of the 
Bible, or of that maritime adventure and colonial 
enterprise which finally grew and blossomed into 
the United States of America. 

The accredited father of the science of electricity 
and magnetism is William Gilbert, who was a 
physician and man of learning at the court of Eliza- 
beth. Prior to him, all that was known of these 
phenomena was what the ancients knew, that the 
lodestone possessed magnetic properties and that 
amber and jet, when rubbed, would attract bits of 

194 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 195 

paper or other substances of small specific gravity. 
Gilbert's great treatise On the Magnet, printed in 
Latin in 1600, containing the fruits of his researches 
and experiments for many years, indeed provided 
the basis for a new science. 

On foundations well and truly laid by Gilbert 
several Europeans, like Otto von Guericke of Ger- 
many, Du Fay of France, and Stephen Gray of 
England, worked before Benjamin Franklin and 
added to the structure of electrical knowledge. 
The Leyden jar, in which the mysterious force 
could be stored, was invented in Holland in 1745 
and in Germany almost simultaneously. 

Franklin's important discoveries are outlined in 
the first chapter of this book. He found out, as we 
have seen, that electricity and lightning are one 
and the same, and in the lightning rod he made 
the first practical application of electricity. After- 
wards Cavendish of England, Coulomb of France, 
Galvani of Italy, all brought new bricks to the pile. 
Following them came a group of master builders, 
among whom may be mentioned: Volta of Italy, 
Oersted of Denmark, Ampere of France, Ohm of 
Germany, Faraday of England, and Joseph Henry 
of America. 

Among these men, who were, it should be noted* 



196 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

theoretical investigators, rather than practical in- 
ventors like Morse, or Bell, or Edison, the Amer- 
ican Joseph Henry ranks high. Henry was born at 
Albany in 1799 and was educated at the Albany 
Academy. Intending to practice medicine, he 
studied the natural sciences. He was poor and 
earned his daily bread by private tutoring. He 
was an industrious and brilliant student and soon 
gave evidence of being endowed with a powerful 
mind. He was appointed in 1824 an assistant en- 
gineer for the survey of a route for a State road, 
three hundred miles long, between the Hudson 
River and Lake Erie. The experience he gained in 
this work changed the course of his career; he de- 
cided to follow civil and mechanical engineering in- 
stead of medicine. Then in 1826 he became teach- 
er of mathematics and natural philosophy in the 
Albany Academy. 

It was in the Albany Academy that he began 
that wide series of experiments and investigations 
which touched so many phases of the great problem 
of electricity. His first discovery was that a mag- 
net could be immensely strengthened by winding 
it with insulated wire. He was the first to em- 
ploy insulated wire wound as on a spool and was 
able finally to make a magnet which would lift 






THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 197 

thirty -five hundred pounds. He first showed the 
difference between "quantity" magnets composed 
of short lengths of wire connected in parallel, ex- 
cited by a few large cells, and "intensity" magnets 
wound with a single long wire and excited by a bat- 
tery composed of cells in series. This was an orig- 
inal discovery, greatly increasing both the imme- 
diate usefulness of the magnet and its possibilities 
for future experiments. 

The learned men of Europe, Faraday, Sturgeon, 
and the rest, were quick to recognize the value of 
the discoveries of the young Albany schoolmaster. 
Sturgeon magnanimously said: "Professor Henry 
has been enabled to produce a magnetic force which 
totally eclipses every other in the whole annals of 
magnetism ; and no parallel is to be found since the 
miraculous suspension of the celebrated Oriental 
imposter in his iron coffin." 1 

Henry also discovered the phenomena of self 
induction and mutual induction. A current sent 
through a wire in the second story of the building 
induced currents through a similar wire in the cel- 
lar two floors below. In this discovery Henry an- 
ticipated Faraday though his results as to mutual 
induction were not published until he had heard 

1 Philosophical Magazine, vol. XI, p. 199 (March, 1832), 



198 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

rumors of Faraday's discovery, which he thought 
to be something different. 

The attempt to send signals by electricity had 
been made many times before Henry became inter- 
ested in the problem. On the invention of Stur- 
geon's magnet there had been hopes in England of 
a successful solution, but in the experiments that 
followed the current became so weak after a few 
hundred feet that the idea was pronounced imprac- 
ticable. Henry strung a mile of fine wire in the 
Academy, placed an "intensity" battery at one 
end, and made the armature strike a bell at the 
other. Thus he discovered the essential principle 
of the electric telegraph. This discovery was made 
in 1831, the year before the idea of a working elec- 
tric telegraph flashed on the mind of Morse. There 
was no occasion for the controversy which took 
place later as to who invented the telegraph. That 
was Morse's achievement, but the discovery of the 
great fact, which startled Morse into activity, was 
Henry's achievement. In Henry's own words: 
"This was the first discovery of the fact that a gal- 
vanic current could be transmitted to a great dis- 
tance with so little a diminution of force as to pro- 
duce mechanical effects, and of the means by which 
the transmission could be accomplished. I saw 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 199 

tliat the electric telegraph was now practicable," 
He says further, however: "I had not in mind any 
particular form of telegraph, but referred only to 
the general fact that it was now demonstrated that a 
galvanic current could be transmitted to great dis- 
tances, with sufficient power to produce mechanical 
effects adequate to the desired object." 1 

Henry next turned to the possibility of a magnetic 
engine for the production of power and succeeded in 
making a reciprocating-bar motor, on which he in- 
stalled the first automatic pole changer, or commu- 
tator, ever used with an electric battery. He did not 
succeed in producing direct rotary motion. His bar 
oscillated like the walking beam of a steamboat. 

Henry was appointed in 1832 Professor of Na- 
tural Philosophy in the College of New Jersey, 
better known today as Princeton University. 
There he repeated his old experiments on a larger 
scale, confirmed Steinheil's experiment of using the 
earth as return conductor, showed how a feeble cur- 
rent would be strengthened, and how a small mag- 
net could be used as a circuit maker and breaker. 
Here were the principles of the telegraph relay and 
the dynamo. 

1 Deposition of Joseph Henry, September 7, 1849, printed in 
Morse, The Electro- Magnetic Telegraph, p. 91. 



200 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Why, then, if the work of Henry was so import- 
ant, is his name almost forgotten, except by men of 
science, and not given to any one of the practical 
applications of electricity? The answer is plain. 
Henry was an investigator, not an inventor. He 
states his position very clearly: "I never myself at- 
tempted to reduce the principles to practice, or to 
apply any of my discoveries to processes in the arts. 
My whole attention exclusive of my duties to the 
College, was devoted to original scientific investi- 
gations, and I left to others what I considered in 
a scientific view of subordinate importance — the 
application of my discoveries to useful purposes in 
the arts. Besides this I partook of the feeling com- 
mon to men of science, which disinclines them 
to secure to themselves the advantages of their 
discoveries by a patent." 

Then, too, his talents were soon turned to a wider 
field. The bequest of James Smithson, that far- 
sighted Englishman, wlft> left his fortune to the 
United States to found "the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion, for the increase and diffusion of knowledge 
among men," was responsible for the diffusion of 
Henry's activities. The Smithsonian Institution 
was founded at Washington in 1846, and Henry 
was fittingly chosen its Secretary, that is, its chief 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 201 

executive officer. And from that time until his 
death in 1878, over thirty years, he devoted himself 
to science in general. 

He studied terrestrial magnetism and building 
materials. He reduced meteorology to a science, 
collecting reports by telegraph, made the first 
weather map, and issued forecasts of the weather 
based upon definite knowledge rather than upon 
signs. He became a member of the Lighthouse 
Board in 1852 and was the head after 1871. The 
excellence of marine illuminants and fog signals to- 
day is largely due to his efforts. Though he was 
later drawn into a controversy with Morse over the 
credit for the invention of the telegraph, he used his 
influence to procure the renewal of Morse's patent. 
He listened with attention to Alexander Graham 
Bell, who had the idea that electric wires might be 
made to carry the human voice, and encouraged 
him to proceed with his experiments. "He said," 
Bell writes, "that he thought it was the germ of a 
great invention and advised me to work at it with- 
out publishing. I said that I recognized the fact 
that there were mechanical difficulties in the way 
that rendered the plan impracticable at the pres- 
ent time. I added that I felt that I had not the 
electrical knowledge necessary to overcome the 



202 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

difficulties. His laconic answer was, 'get it!' I 
cannot tell you how much these two words have 
encouraged me." 

Henry had blazed the way for others to work out 
the principles of the electric motor, and a few ex- 
perimenters attempted to follow his lead. Thomas 
Davenport, a blacksmith of Brandon, Vermont, 
built an electric car in 1835, which he was able to 
drive on the road, and so made himself the pioneer 
of the automobile in America. Twelve years later 
Moses G. Farmer exhibited at various places in 
New England an electric-driven locomotive, and in 
1851 Charles Grafton Page drove an electric car, on 
the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 
from Washington to Bladensburg, at the rate of 
nineteen miles an hour. But the cost of batteries 
was too great and the use of the electric motor in 
transportation not yet practicable^ 

The great principle of the dynamo, or electric 
generator, was discovered by Faraday and Henry 
but the process of its development into an agency 
of practical power consumed many years ; and with- 
out the dynamo for the generation of power the 
electric motor had to stand still and there could be 
no practicable application of electricity to trans- 
portation, or manufacturing, or lighting. So it wa? 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 203 

that, except for the telegraph, whose story is told in 
another chapter, there was little more American 
achievement in electricity until after the Civil War. 

The arc light as a practical illuminating device 
came in 1878. It was introduced by Charles F. 
Brush, a young Ohio engineer and graduate of the 
University of Michigan. Others before him had 
attacked the problem of electric lighting, but lack 
of suitable carbons stood in the way of their suc- 
cess. Brush overcame the chief difficulties and 
made several lamps to burn in series from one 
dynamo. The first Brush lights used for street il- 
lumination were erected in Cleveland, Ohio, and 
soon the use of arc lights became general. Other 
inventors improved the apparatus, but still there 
were drawbacks. For outdoor lighting and for 
large halls they served the purpose, but they could 
not be used in small rooms. Besides, they were in 
series, that is, the current passed through every 
lamp in turn, and an accident to one threw the 
whole series out of action. The whole problem 
of indoor lighting was to be solved by one of 
America's most famous inventors. 

The antecedents of Thomas Alva Edison in 
America may be traced back to the time when 
Franklin was beginning his career as a printer in 



204 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Philadelphia, The first American Edison? appear 
to have come from Holland about 1730 and set- 
tled on the Passaic River in New Jersey. Edison's 
grandfather, John Edison, was a Loyalist in the 
Revolution who found refuge in Nova Scotia and 
subsequently moved to Upper Canada, His son, 
Samuel Edison, thought he saw a moral in the old 
man's exile. His father had taken the King's side 
and had lost his home; Samuel would make no such 
error. So, when the Canadian Rebellion of 1837 
broke out, Samuel Edison, aged thirty-three, ar- 
rayed himself on the side of the insurgents. This 
time, however, the insurgents lost, and Samuel was 
obliged to flee to the United States, just as his 
father had fled to Canada. He finally settled at 
Milan, Ohio, and there, in 1847, in a little brick 
house, which is still standing, Thomas Alva Edison 
was born. 

When the boy was seven the family moved to 
Port Huron, Michigan. The fact that he attended 
school only three months and soon became self- 
supporting was not due to poverty. His mother, 
an educated woman of Scotch extraction, taught 
him at home after the schoolmaster reported that 
he was "addled." His desire for money to spend 
on chemicals for a laboratory which he had fitted 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 205 

up in the cellar led to his first venture in business. 
"By a great amount of persistence," he says, "I 
got permission to go on the local train as newsboy. 
The local train from Port Huron to Detroit, a dis- 
tance of sixty-three miles, left at 7 a.m. and ar- 
rived again at 9.30 p.m. After being on the train 
for several months I started two stores in Port 
Huron — one for periodicals, and the other for vege- 
( tables, butter, and berries in the season. They were 
i attended by two boys who shared in the profits." 
' Moreover, young Edison bought produce from the 
farmers' wives along the line which he sold at a 
profit. He had several newsboys working for him 
on other trains ; he spent hours in the Public Library 
in Detroit; he fitted up a laboratory in an unused 
compartment of one of the coaches, and then 
bought a small printing press which he installed in 
the car and began to issue a newspaper which he 
printed on the train. All before he was fifteen 
years old. 

But one day Edison's career as a traveling news- 
boy came to a sudden end. He was at work in his 
moving laboratory when a lurch of the train jarred 
a stick of burning phosphorus to the floor and set 
the car on fire. The irate conductor ejected him at 
the next station, giving him a violent box on the 



206 THE AGE OF TNVENTION 

ear, which permanently injured his hearing, and 
dumped his chemicals and printing apparatus on 
the platform. 

Having lost his position, young Edison soon be- 
gan to dabble in telegraphy, in which he had al- 
ready become interested, "probably," as he says, 
"from visiting telegraph offices with a chum who 
had tastes similar to mine." He and this chum 
strung a line between their houses and learned the 
rudiments of writing by wire. Then a station mas- 
ter on the railroad, whose child Edison had saved 
from danger, took Edison under his wing and 
taught him the mysteries of railway telegraphy. 
The boy of sixteen held positions at small stations 
near home for a few months and then began a pe- 
riod of five years of apparently purposeless wander- 
ing as a tramp telegrapher. Toledo, Cincinnati, 
Indianapolis, Memphis, Louisville, Detroit, were 
some of the cities in which he worked, studied, ex- 
perimented, and played practical jokes on his as- 
sociates. He was eager to learn something of the 
principles of electricity but found few from whom 
he could learn. 

Edison arrived in Boston in 1868, practically 
penniless, and applied for a position as night opera- 
tor. "The manager asked me when I was ready 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 207 

to go to work. 'Now,' I replied." In Boston he 
found men who knew something of electricity, and, 
as he worked at night and cut short his sleeping 
hours, he found time for study. He bought and 
studied Faraday's works. Presently came the first 
of his multitudinous inventions, an automatic vote 
recorder, for which he received a patent in 1868. 
This necessitated a trip to Washington, which he 
made on borrowed money, but he was unable to 
arouse any interest in the device. "After the vote 
recorder," he says, "I invented a stock ticker, and 
started a ticker service in Boston; had thirty or 
forty subscribers and operated from a room over 
the Gold Exchange." This machine Edison at- 
tempted to sell in New York, but he returned to 
Boston without having succeeded. He then in- 
vented a duplex telegraph by which two messages 
might be sent simultaneously, but at a test the ma- 
chine failed because of the stupidity of the assistant. 
Penniless and in debt, Edison arrived again in New 
York in 1869. But now fortune favored him. The 
Gold Indicator Company was a concern furnishing 
to its subscribers by telegraph the Stock Exchange 
prices of gold. The company's instrument was out 
of order. By a lucky chance Edison was on the 
spot to repair it, which he did successfully, and 



208 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

this led to his appointment as superintendent at a 
salary of three hundred dollars a month. When a 
change in the ownership of the company threw him 
out of the position he formed, with Franklin L. 
Pope, the partnership of Pope, Edison, and Com- 
pany, the first firm of electrical engineers in the 
United States. 

Not long afterwards Edison brought out the 
invention which set him on the high road to great 
achievement. This was the improved stock ticker, 
for which the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company 
paid him forty thousand dollars. It was much 
more than he had expected. "I had made up my 
mind," he says, "that, taking into consideration 
the time and killing pace I was working at, I 
should be entitled to §5000, but could get along 
with $3000." The money, of course, was paid by 
check. Edison had never received a check before 
and he had to be told how to cash it. 

Edison immediately set up a shop in Newark and 
threw himself into many and various activities. 
He remade the prevailing system of automatic 
telegraphy and introduced it into England. He 
experimented with submarine cables and worked 
out a system of quadruplex telegraphy by which 
one wire was made to do the work of four. These 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 209 

two inventions were bought by Jay Gould for his 
Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. Gould 
paid for the quadruplex system thirty thousand 
dollars, but for the automatic telegraph he paid 
nothing. Gould presently acquired control of the 
Western Union; and, having thus removed com- 
petition from his path, "he then," says Edison 5 
"repudiated his contract with the automatic tele- 
graph people and they never received a cent for 
their wares or patents, and I lost three years of very 
hard labor. But I never had any grudge against 
him because he was so able in his line, and as long 
as my part was successful the money with me was 
a secondary consideration. When Gould got the 
Western Union I knew no further progress in te- 
legraphy was possible, and I went into other lines." ■ 
In fact, however, the need of money forced Edi- 
son later on to resume his work for the Western 
Union Telegraph Company, both in telegraphy and 
telephony. His connection with the telephone is 
told in another volume of this series. 2 He invented 
a carbon transmitter and sold it to the Western 
Union for one hundred thousand dollars, payable 
in seventeen annual installments of six thousanc 

1 Quoted in Dyer and Martin, Edison, vol. i, p. 161. 

2 Hendrick, The Age of Big Business. 



210 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

dollars. He made a similar agreement for the same 
sum offered him for the patent of the electro-moto- 
graph. He did not realize that these installments 
were only simple interest upon the sums due him. 
These agreements are typical of Edison's com- 
mercial sense in the early years of his career as an 
inventor. He worked only upon inventions for 
which there was a possible commercial demand and 
sold them for a trifle to get the money to meet the 
pay rolls of his different shops. Later the inventor 
learned wisdom and associated with himself keen 
business men to their common profit. 

Edison set up his laboratories and factories at 
Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876, and it was there 
that he invented the phonograph, for which he re- 
ceived the first patent in 1878. It was there, too, 
that he began that wonderful series of experiments 
which gave to the world the incandescent lamp.. 
He had noticed the growing importance of open arc 
lighting, but was convinced that his mission was 
to produce an electric lamp for use within doors. 
Forsaking for the moment his newborn phonograph, 
Edison applied himsplf in earnest to the problem of 
the lamp. His first search was for a durable fila- 
ment which would burn in a vacuum. A series of 
experiments with platinum wire and with various 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 211 

refractory metals led to no satisfactory results. 
Many other substances were tried, even human 
hair. Edison concluded that carbon of some sort 
was the solution rather than a metal. Almost coin- 
cidently, Swan, an Englishman, who had also been 
wrestling with this problem, came to the same con- 
clusion. Finally, one day in October, 1879, after 
fourteen months of hard work and the expenditure 
of forty thousand dollars, a carbonized cotton 
thread sealed in one of Edison's globes lasted forty 
hours. "If it will burn forty hours now," said 
Edison, "I know I can make it burn a hundred." 
And so he did. A better filament was needed. 
Edison found it in carbonized strips of bamboo. 

Edison developed his own type of dynamo, the 
largest ever made up to that time, and, along with 
the Edison incandescent lamps, it was one of the 
wonders of the Paris Electrical Exposition of 1881. 
The installation in Europe and America of plants 
for service followed. Edison's first great central 
station, supplying power for three thousand lamps, 
was erected at Holborn Viaduct. London, in 1882, 
and in September of that year the Pearl Street Sta- 
tion in New York City, the first central station in 
America, was put into operation. 

The incandescent lamp and the central power 



212 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

station, considered together, may be regarded as 
one of the most fruitful conceptions in the history 
of applied electricity. It comprised a complete 
generating, distributing, and utilizing system, from 
the dynamo to the very lamp at the fixture, ready 
for use. It even included a meter to determine the 
current actually consumed. The success of the sys- 
tem was complete, and as fast as lamps and genera- 
tors could be produced they were installed to give a 
service at once recognized as superior to any other 
form of lighting. By 1885 the Edison lighting sys- 
tem was commercially developed in all its essen- 
tials, though still subject to many improvements 
and capable of great enlargement, and soon Edison 
sold out his interests in it and turned his great mind 
to other inventions. 

The inventive ingenuity of others brought in 
time better and more economical incandescent 
lamps. From the filaments of bamboo fiber the 
next step was to filaments of cellulose in the form 
of cotton, duly prepared and carbonized. Later 
(1905) came the metalized carbon filament and 
finally the employment of tantalum or tungsten. 
The tungsten lamps first made were very delicate, 
and it was not until W. D. Coolidge, in the research 
laboratories of the General Electric Company at | 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 213 

Schenectady, invented a process for producing 
ductile tungsten that they became available for 
rgeneral use. 

The dynamo and the central power station 
brought the electric motor into action. The dyna- 
jmo and the motor do precisely opposite things. 
The dynamo converts mechanical energy into elec- 
tric energy. The motor transforms electric energy 
into mechanical energy. But the two work in 
partnership and without the dynamo to manu- 
facture the power the motor could not thrive, 
i Moreover, the central station was needed to dis- 
tribute the power for transportation as well as 
i if or lighting. 

The first motors to use Edison station current 
I were designed by Frank J. Sprague, a graduate of 
i the Naval Academy, who had worked with Edison, 
as have many of the foremost electrical engineers 
of America and Europe. These small motors pos- 
: sessed several advantages over the big steam en- 
gine. They ran smoothly and noiselessly on ac- 
I count of the absence of reciprocating parts. They 
[ consumed current only when in use. They could 
fcbe installed and connected with a minimum of 
: trouble and expense. They emitted neither smell 
nor smoke. 



214 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Edison built an experimental electric railway 
line at Menlo Park in 1880 and proved its practic- i 
ability. Meanwhile, however, as he worked on his 
motors and dynamos, he was anticipated by others 
in some of his inventions. It would not be fair to 
say that Edison and Sprague alone developed the 
electric railway, for there were several others who 
made important contributions. Stephen D. Field 
of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, had a patent which 
the Edison interests found it necessary to acquire; 
C. J. Van Depoele and Leo Daft made important 
contributions to the trolley system. In Cleveland i 
in 1884 an electric railway on a small scale was 
opened to the public. But Sprague's first electric I 
railway, built at Richmond, Virginia, in 1887, as a 
complete system, is generally hailed as the true 
pioneer of electric transportation in the United 
States. Thereafter the electric railway spread I 
quickly over the land, obliterating the old horse- 
cars and greatly enlarging the circumference of the 
city. Moreover, on the steam roads, at all the 
great terminals, and wherever there were tunnels 
to be passed through, the old giant steam engine in 
time yielded place to the electric motor. 

The application of the electric motor to the "ver- 
tical railway," or elevator, made possible the steel 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 215 

skyscraper. The elevator, of course, is an old de- 
vice. It was improved and developed in America 
by Elisha Graves Otis, an inventor who lived and 
died before the Civil War and whose sons afterward 
erected a great business on foundations laid by him. 
The first Otis elevators were moved by steam or 
hydraulic power. They were slow, noisy, and diffi- 
cult of control. After the electric motor came 
in, the elevator soon changed its character and 
adapted itself to the imperative demands of the 
towering, skeleton-framed buildings which were 
rising in every city. 

Edison, already famous as "the Wizard of Menlo 
Park/' established his factories and laboratories at 
, West Orange, New Jersey, in 1887, whence he has 
since sent forth a constant stream of inventions, 
i some new and startling, others improvements on 
i old devices. The achievements of several other in- 
I ventors in the electrical field have been only less 
noteworthy than his. The new profession of elec- 
| trical engineering called to its service great num- 
bers of able men. Manufacturers of electrical ma- 
chinery established research departments and em- 
ployed inventors. The times had indeed changed 
since the day when Morse, as a student at Yale 
College, chose art instead of electricity as his 



216 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

calling, because electricity afforded him no means 
of livelihood. 

From Edison's plant in 1903 came a new type of 
the storage battery, which he afterwards improved. 
The storage battery, as every one knows, is used in 
the propulsion of electric vehicles and boats, in the 
operation of block-signals, in the lighting of trains, 
and in the ignition and starting of gasoline en- 
gines. As an adjunct of the gas-driven automobile, 
it renders the starting of the engine independent 
of muscle and so makes possible the general use of 
the automobile by women as well as men. 

The dynamo brought into service not only light 
and power but heat; and the electric furnace in 
turn gave rise to several great metallurgical and 
chemical industries. Elihu Thomson's process of 
welding by means of the arc furnace found wide 
and varied applications. The commercial produc- 
tion of aluminum is due to the electric furnace and 
dates from 1886. It was in that year that H. Y 
Castner of New York and C. M. Hall of Pittsburgh 
both invented the methods of manufacture which 
gave to the world the new metal, malleable and duc- 
tile, exceedingly light, and capable of a thousand 
uses. Carborundum is another product of the 
electric furnace. It was the invention of Edward 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 217 

B. Acheson, a graduate of the Edison laboratories. 
Acheson, in 1891, was trying to make artificial dia- 
monds and produced instead the more useful car- 
borundum, as well as the Acheson graphite, which 
at once found its place in industry. Another valu- 
able product of the electric furnace was the calcium 
carbide first produced in 1892 by Thomas L. Wil- 
son of Spray, North Carolina. This calcium car- 
bide is the basis of acetylene gas, a powerful illu- 
minant, and it is widely used in metallurgy, for 
welding and other purposes. 

At the same time with these developments the 
value of the alternating current came to be recog- 
nized. The transformer, an instrument developed 
on foundations laid by Henry and Faraday, made 
it possible to transmit electrical energy over great 
distances with little loss of power. Alternating 
currents were transformed by means of this instru- 
ment at the source, and were again converted at 
the point of use to a lower and convenient poten- 
tial for local distribution and consumption. The 
first extensive use of the alternating current was in 
arc lighting, where the higher potentials could be em- 
ployed on series lamps. Perhaps the chief American 
inventor in the domain of the alternating current 
is Elihu Thomson, who began his useful career as 



218 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Professor of Chemistry and Mechanics in the Cen« 
tral High School of Philadelphia. Another great 
protagonist of the alternating current was George 
Westinghouse, who was quite as much an improver 
and inventor as a manufacturer of machinery - 
Two other inventors* at least, should not be forgot- 
ten in this connection: Nicola Tesla and Charles S, 
Bradley. Both of them had worked for Edison. 

The turbine (from the Latin turbo, meaning a 
whirlwind) is the name of the motor which drives 
the great dynamos for the generation of electric 
energy. It may be either a steam turbine or a 
water turbine. The steam turbine of Curtis or 
Parsons is today the prevailing engine. But the 
development of hydro-electric power has already 
gone far. It is estimated that the electric energy 
produced in the United States by the utilization of 
water powers every year equals the power product 
of forty million tons of coal, or about one-tenth of 
the coal which is consumed in the production of 
steam. Yet hydro-electricity is said to be only in 
its beginnings, for not more than a tenth of the 
readily available water power of the country is 
actually in use. 

The first commercial hydro-station for the trans- 
mission of power in America was established in 



THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY 219 

1891 at Telluride, Colorado. It was practically 
duplicated in the following year at Brodie, Colo- 
rado. The motors and generators for these stations 
came from the Westinghouse plant in Pittsburgh, 
and Westinghouse also supplied the turbo-genera^ 
tors which inaugurated, in 1895, the delivery of 
I power from Niagara Falls. 



CHAPTER X 

THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 

The most popular man in Europe in the year 1783 
was still the United States Minister to France. 
The figure of plain Benjamin Franklin, his broad 
head, with the calm, shrewd eyes peering through 
the bifocals of his own invention, invested with a 
halo of great learning and fame, entirely captivated 
the people's imagination. 

As one of the American Commissioners busy 
with the extraordinary problems of the Peace, 
Franklin might have been supposed too occupied 
for excursions into the paths of science and phi- 
losophy. But the spaciousness and orderly furnish- 
ing of his mind provided that no pursuit of knowl- 
edge should be a digression for him. So we find 
him, naturally, leaving his desk on several days of 
that summer and autumn and posting off to watch 
the trials of a new invention; nothing less indeed 
than a ship to ride the air. He found time also to 

220 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 2? I 

describe the new invention in letters to his friends 
in different parts of the world. 

On the 21st of November Franklin set out for the 
gardens of the King's hunting lodge in the Bois de 
Boulogne, on the outskirts of Paris, with a quick- 
ened interest, a thrill of excitement, which made 
him yearn to be young again with another long 
life to live that he might see what should be after 
him on the earth. What bold things men would 
attempt! Today two daring Frenchmen, Pilatre 
de Rozier of the Royal Academy and his friend the 
Marquis d'Arlandes, would ascend in a balloon 
freed from the earth — the first men in history 
to adventure thus upon the wind. The crowds 
gathered to witness the event opened a lane for 
Franklin to pass through. 

At six minutes to two the aeronauts entered the 
car of their balloon; and, at a height of two hundred 
and seventy feet, doffed their hats and saluted the 
applauding spectators. Then the wind carried 
them away toward Paris. Over Passy, about half 
a mile from the starting point, the balloon began 
to descend, and the River Seine seemed rising to 
engulf them; but when they fed the fire under their 
sack of hot air with chopped straw they rose to the 
elevation of five hundred feet. Safe across the 



222 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

river they dampened the fire with a sponge anc^ 
made a gentle descent beyond the old rampart* 
of Paris. 

At five o'clock that afternoon, at the King's 
Chateau in the Bois de Boulogne, the members of 
the Royal Academy signed a memorial of the event 
One of the spectators accosted Franklin. 

"What does Dr. Franklin conceive to be the use 
of this new invention?" 

"What is the use of a new-born child?" was 
the retort. 

A new-born child, a new-born republic, a new 
invention: alike dim beginnings of development 
which none could foretell. The year that saw the 
world acknowledge a new nation, freed of its an- 
cient political bonds, saw also the first successful 
attempt to break the supposed bonds that held men 
down to the ground. Though the invention of the 
balloon was only five months old, there were already 
two types on exhibition: the original Montgolfier, 
or fire-balloon, inflated with hot air, and a modifi- 
cation by Charles, inflated with hydrogen gas. 
The mass of the French people did not regard these 
balloons with Franklin's serenity. Some weeks 
earlier the danger of attack had necessitated a bal- 
loon's removal from the place of its first moorings 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 223 

to the Champ de Mars at dead of night. Preceded 
by flaming torches, with soldiers marching on 
either side and guards in front and rear, the great 
ball was borne through the darkened streets. The 
midnight cabby along the route stopped his nag, or 
tumbled from sleep on his box, to kneel on the 
pavement and cross himself against the evil that 
might be in that strange monster. The fear of the 
people was so great that the Government saw fit 
to issue a proclamation, explaining the invention. 
Any one seeing such a globe, like the moon in an 
eclipse, so read the proclamation, should be aware 
that it is only a bag made of taffeta or light canvas 
covered with paper and "cannot possibly cause any 
harm and which will some day prove serviceable to 
the wants of society." 

Franklin wrote a description of the Montgolfier 
balloon to Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal 
Society of London: 

Its bottom was open and in the middle of the open* 
ing was fixed a kind of basket grate, in which faggots 
and sheaves of straw were burnt. The air, rarefied in 
passing through this flame, rose in the balloon, swelled 
out its sides, and filled it. The persons, who were 
placed in the gallery made of wicker and attached to 
the outside near the bottom, had each of them a port 
through which they could pass sheaves of straw into 






22* THE AGE OF INVENTION 

the grate to keep up the flame and thereby keep the 
balloon full. . . . One of these courageous philoso- 
phers, the Marquis d'Arlandes, did me the honor to 
call upon me in the evening after the experiment, with 
Mr. Montgolfier, the very ingenious inventor. I was 
happy to see him safe. He informed me that they lit 
gently, without the least shock, and the balloon was 
very little damaged. 

Franklin writes that the competition between 
Montgolfier and Charles has already resulted in 
progress in the construction and management of 
the balloon. He sees it as a discovery of great im- 
portance, one that "may possibly give a new turn 
to human affairs, Convincing sovereigns of the 
folly of war may perhaps be one effect of it, since it 
will be impracticable for the most potent of them to 
guard his dominions." The prophecy may yet be 
fulfilled. Franklin remarks that a short while ago 
the idea of "witches riding through the air upon a 
broomstick and that of philosophers upon a bag 
of smoke would have appeared equally impossible 
and ridiculous." Yet in the space of a few month? 
he has seen the philosopher on his smoke bag, if not 
the witch on her broom. He wishes that one of 
these very ingenious inventors would immediately 
devise means of direction for the balloon, a rudder 
to steer it; because the malady from which he is 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 225 

suffering is always increased by a jolting drive in a 
fourwheeler and he would gladly avail himself of an 
easier way of locomotion. 

The vision of man on the wing did not, of course, 
begin with the invention of the balloon. Perhaps 
the dream of flying man came first to some primi- 
tive poet of the Stone Age, as he watched, fearfully, 
the gyrations of the winged creatures of the air; 
even as in a later age it came to Langley and 
Maxim, who studied the wing motions of birds and 
insects, not in fear but in the light and confidence 
of advancing science. 

Crudely outlined by some ancient Egyptian 
sculptor, a winged human figure broods upon the 
tomb of Rameses III. In the Hebrew parable of 
Genesis winged cherubim guarded the gates of 
Paradise against the man and woman who had 
stifled aspiration with sin. Fairies, witches, and 
magicians ride the wind in the legends and folklore 
of all peoples. The Greeks had gods and goddesses 
many; and one of these Greek art represents as 
moving earthward on great spreading pinions. 
Victory came by the air. When Demetrius, King 
of Macedonia, set up the Winged Victory of Samo- 
thrace to commemorate the naval triumph of the 



226 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

Greeks over the ships of Egypt, Greek art poeti- 
cally foreshadowed the relation of the air service 
to the fleet in our own day. 

Man has always dreamed of flight; but when did 
men first actually fly? We smile at the story of 
Daedalus, the Greek architect, and his son, Icarus, 
who made themselves wings and flew from the 
realm of their foes; and the tale of Simon, the 
magician, who pestered the early Christian Church 
by exhibitions of flight into the air amid smoke and 
flame in mockery of the ascension. But do the 
many tales of sorcerers in the Middle Ages, who 
rose from the ground with their cloaks apparently 
filled with wind, to awe the rabble, suggest that 
they had deduced the principle of the aerostat from 
watching the action of smoke as did the Mont- 
golfiers hundreds of years later? At all events one 
of these alleged exhibitions about the year 800 in- 
spired the good Bishop Agobard of Lyons to write 
a book against superstition, in which he proved con- 
clusively that it was impossible for human beings 
to rise through the air. Later, Roger Bacon and 
Leonardo da Vinci, each in his turn ruminated in 
manuscript upon the subject of flight. Bacon, the 
scientist, put forward a theory of thin copper globes 
filled with liquid fire, which would soar. Leonardo, 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 227 

artist, studied the wings of birds. The Jesuit 
Francisco Lana, in 1670, working on Bacon's the- 
ory sketched an airship made of four copper balls 
with a skiff attached; this machine was to soar 
by means of the lighter-than-air globes and to be 
navigated aloft by oars and sails. 

But while philosophers in their libraries were de- 
signing airships on paper and propounding their 
theories, venturesome men, "crawling, but pes- 
tered with the thought of wings," were making pin- 
ions of various fabrics and trying them upon the 
wind. Four years after Lana suggested his airship 
with balls and oars, Besnier, a French locksmith, 
made a flying machine of four collapsible planes 
like book covers suspended on rods. With a rod 
over each shoulder, and moving the two front 
planes with his arms and the two back ones by his 
feet, Besnier gave exhibitions of gliding from a 
height to the earth. But his machine could not 
soar. What may be called the first patent on a fly- 
ing machine was recorded in 1709 w^hen Bartholo- 
meo de Gusmao, a friar, appeared before the King 
of Portugal to announce that he had invented a fly- 
ing machine and to request an order prohibiting 
other men from making anything of the sort. The 
King decreed pain of death to all infringers; and to 



228 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

assist the enterprising monk in improving his ma* 
chine, he appointed him first professor of mathe- 
matics in the University of Coimbra with a fat 
stipend. Then the Inquisition stepped in. The in- 
ventor's suave reply, to the effect that to show men 
how to soar to Heaven was an essentially religious 
act, availed him nothing. He was pronounced a 
sorcerer, his machine was destroyed, and he was 
imprisoned till his death. Many other men fash- 
ioned unto themselves wings; but, though some of 
them might glide earthward, none could rise upon 
the wind. 

While the principle by which the balloon, father 
of the dirigible, soars and floats could be deduced 
by men of natural powers of observation and little 
science from the action of clouds and smoke, the air- 
plane, the Winged Victory of our day, waited upon 
two things — the scientific analysis of the anatomy 
of bird wings and the internal combustion engine. 

These two things necessary to convert man into 
a rival of the albatross did not come at once and to- 
gether. Not the dream of flying but the need for 
quantity and speed in production to take care 
of the wants of a modern civilization compelled 
the invention of the internal combustion engine. 
Before it appeared in the realm of mechanics, 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 229 

experimenters were applying in the construction of 
flying models the knowledge supplied by Cayley in 
1796, who made an instrument of whalebone, corks, 
and feathers, which by the action of two screws of 
quill feathers, rotating in opposite directions, would 
rise to the ceiling; and the full revelation of the 
structure and action of bird wings set forth by 
Pettigrew in 1867. 

"The wing, both when at rest and when in mo- 
tion," Pettigrew declared, "may not inaptly be 
compared to the blade of an ordinary screw pro- 
peller as employed in navigation. Thus the gen- 
eral outline of the wing corresponds closely with the 
outline of the propeller, and the track described by 
the w r ing in space is twisted upon itself propeller 
fashion." Numerous attempts to apply the newly 
discovered principles to artificial birds failed, yet 
came so close to success that they fed instead of 
killing the hope that a solution of the problem 
would one day ere long be reached. 

"Nature has solved it, and why not man?" 
From his boyhood days Samuel Pierpont Lang- 
ley, so he tells us, had asked himself that question, 
which he was later to answer. Langley, born in 
Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1834, was another link 



230 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

in the chain of distinguished inventors who first 
saw the light of day in Puritan New England. 
And, like many of those other inventors, he num- 
bered among his ancestors for generations two 
types of men — on the one hand, a line of skilled 
artisans and mechanics; on the other, the most in- 
tellectual men of their time such as clergymen and 
schoolmasters, one of them being Increase Mather. 
We see in Langley, as in some of his brother New 
England inventors, the later flowering of the Puri- 
tan ideal stripped of its husk of superstition and 
harshness — a high sense of duty and of integrity, 
an intense conviction that the reason for a man's 
life here is that he may give service, a reserved de- 
portment which did not mask from discerning eyes 
the man's gentle qualities of heart and his keen 
love of beauty in art and Nature. 

Langley first chose as his profession civil engi- 
neering and architecture and the years between 
1857 and 1864 were chiefly spent in prosecuting 
these callings in St. Louis and Chicago. Then he 
abandoned them; for the bent of his mind was 
definitely towards scientific inquiry. In 1867 he 
was appointed director of the Allegheny Obser- 
vatory at Pittsburgh. Here he remained until 
1887, when, having made for himself a world-wide 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 231 

reputation as an astronomer, he became Secretary 
of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. 

It was about this time that he began his ex- 
periments in "aerodynamics." But the prob- 
lem of flight had long been a subject of interested 
speculation with him. Ten years later he wrote: 

Nature has made her flying-machine in the bird, 
which is nearly a thousand times as heavy as the air 
its bulk displaces, and only those who have tried to 
rival it know how inimitable her work is, for the "way 
of a bird in the air" remains as wonderful to us as it was 
to Solomon, and the sight of the bird has constantly 
held this wonder before men's minds, and kept the 
flame of hope from utter extinction, in spite of long dis- 
appointment. I well remember how, as a child, when 
lying in a New England pasture, I watched a hawk 
soaring far up in the blue, and sailing for a long time 
without any motion of its wings, as though it needed 
no work to sustain it, but was kept up there by some 
miracle. But, however sustained, I saw it sweep in a 
few seconds of its leisurely flight, over a distance that 
to me was encumbered with every sort of obstacle, 
which did not exist for it. . . . How wonderfully 
easy, too, was its flight! There was not a flutter of its 
pinions as it swept over the field, in a motion which 
seemed as effortless as that of its shadow. After many 
years and in mature life, I was brought to think of these 
things again, and to ask myself whether the problem 
of artificial flight was as hopeless and as absurd as it 
was then thought to be- 



232 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

In three or four years Langley made nearly forty 
models. "The primary difficulty lay in making 
the model light enough and sufficiently strong to 
support its power," he says. "This difficulty 
continued to be fundamental through every later 
form; but, beside this, the adjustment of the center 
of gravity to the center of pressure of the wings, 
the disposition of the wings themselves, the size 
of the propellers, the inclination and number of 
the blades, and a great number of other details, 
presented themselves for examination." 

By 1891 Langley had a model light enough to 
fly, but proper balancing had not been attained. 
He set himself anew to find the practical condi- 
tions of equilibrium and of horizontal flight. His 
experiments convinced him that "mechanical sus- 
tenation of heavy bodies in the air, combined with 
very great speeds, is not only possible, but within 
the reach of mechanical means we actually possess." 

After many experiments with new models Lang- 
ley at length fashioned a steam-driven machine 
which would fly horizontally. It weighed about 
thirty pounds; it was some sixteen feet in length, 
with two sets of wings, the pair in front measuring 
forty feet from tip to tip. On May 6, 1896, this 
model was launched over the Potomac River. It 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 233 

flew half a mile in a minute and a half. When its 
fuel and water gave out, it descended gently to the 
river's surface. In November Langley launched 
another model which flew for three-quarters of a 
mile at a speed of thirty miles an hour. These tests 
demonstrated the practicability of artificial flight. 
The Spanish-American War found the military 
observation balloon dcing the limited work which 
it had done ever since the days of Franklin. Presi- 
dent McKinley was keemy interested in Langley's 
design to build a power- driven flying machine 
which would have innumerable advantages over 
the balloon. The Government provided the funds 
and Langley took up the problem of *■ flying ma- 
chine large enough to carry a man. His initial dif- 
ficulty was the engine. It was plain at once that 
new principles of engine construction must be 
adopted before a motor could be designed of high 
power yet light enough to be borne in the slender 
body of an airplane. The internal combustion 
engine had now come into use. Langley went to 
Europe in 1900, seeking his motor, only to be told 
that what he sought was impossible. 

His assistant, Charles M. Manly, meanwhile 
found a builder of engines in America who was 
willing to make the attempt. But, after two years 



234 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

of waiting for it, the engine proved a failure. Man- 
ly then had the several parts of it, which he 
deemed hopeful, transported to Washington, and 
there at the Smithsonian Institution he labored 
and experimented until he evolved a light and 
powerful gasoline motor. In October, 1903, the 
test was made, with Manly aboard of the machine. 
The failure which resulted was due solely to the, 
clumsy launching apparatus. The airplane was 
damaged as it rushed forward before beginning to 
soar; and, as it rose, it turned over and plunged 
into the river, The loyal and enthusiastic Manly, 
who was fortunately a good diver and swimmer, 
hastily dried himself and gave out a reassuring 
statement to the representatives of the press and 
to the officers of the Board of Ordnance gathered 
to witness the flight. 

A second failure in December convinced specta- 
tors that man was never intended to fly. The news- 
papers let loose such a storm of ridicule upon Lang- 
ley and his machine, with charges as to the waste 
of public funds, that the Government refused to 
assist him further. Langley, at that time sixty- 
nine years of age, took this defeat so keenly to heart 
that it hastened his death, which occurred three 
years later. "Failure in the aerodrome itself," 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 235 

he wrote, "or its engines there has been none; and 
it is believed that it is at the moment of success, 
and when the engineering problems have been 
solved, that a lack of means has prevented a con- 
tinuance of the work." 

It was truly "at the moment of success" that 
Langley's work was stopped. On December 17, 
1903, the Wright brothers made the first successful 
experiment in which a machine carrying a man 
rose by its own power, flew naturally and at even 
speed, and descended without damage. These 
brothers, Wilbur and Orville, who at last opened 
the long besieged lanes of the air, were born in 
Dayton, Ohio. Their father, a clergyman and 
later a bishop, spent his leisure in scientific reading 
and in the invention of a typewriter which, how- 
ever, he never perfected. He inspired an interest 
in scientific principles in his boys' minds by giving 
them toys which would stimulate their curiosity. 
One of these toys was a helicopter, or Cayley's Top, 
which would rise and flutter awhile in the air. 

After several helicopters of their own, the broth- 
ers made original models of kites, and Orville, the 
younger, attained an exceptional skill in flying 
them. Presently Orville and Wilbur were making 



236 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

their own bicycles and astonishing their neighbors 
by public appearances on a specially designed 
tandem. The first accounts which they read of ex- 
periments with flying machines turned their inven- 
tive genius into the new field. In particular the 
newspaper accounts at that time of Otto Lilien- 
thal's exhibitions with his glider stirred their in- 
terest and set them on to search the libraries for 
literature on the subject of flying. As they read of 
the work of Langley and others they concluded 
that the secret of flying could not be mastered 
theoretically in a laboratory; it must be learned 
in the air. It struck these young men, trained by 
necessity to count pennies at their full value, as 
"wasteful extravagance" to mount delicate and 
costly machinery on wrings which no one knew how 
to manage. They turned from the records of other 
inventors' models to study the one perfect model, 
the bird. Said Wilbur Wright, speaking before 
the Society of Western Engineers, at Chicago : 

The bird's wings are undoubtedly very well designed 
indeed, but it is not any extraordinary efficiency that 
strikes with astonishment, but rather the marvelous 
skill with which they are used. It is true that I have 
seen birds perform soaring feats of almost incredible 
nature in positions where it was not possible to meas- 
ure the speed and trend of the wind, but whenever it 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 237 

was possible to determine by actual measurements the 
conditions under which the soaring was performed it 
was easy to account for it on the basis of the results 
obtained with artificial wings. The soaring problem 
is apparently not so much one of better wings as of 
better operators. 1 

When the Wrights determined to fly, two prob- 
lems which had beset earlier experimenters had 
been partially solved. Experience had brought out 
certain facts regarding the w T ings; and invention 
had supplied an engine. But the law^s governing 
the balancing and steering of the machine were 
unknown. The way of a man in the air had yet to 
be discovered. 

The starting point of their theory of flight seems 
to have been that man was endowed with an in- 
telligence at least equal to that of the bird; and, 
that with practice he could learn to balance himself 
in the air as naturally and instinctively as on the 
ground. He must and could be, like the bird, the 
controlling intelligence of his machine. To quote 
Wilbur Wright again: 

It seemed to us that the main reason why the prob- 
lem had remained so long unsolved was that no one 
had been able to obtain any adequate practice. Lil- 
ienthal, in five years of time, had spent only five hou**i 

1 Cited in Turner, The Romance of Aeronautics 



238 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

in actual gliding through the air. The wonder was not 
that he had done so little but that he had accomplished 
so much. It would not be considered at all safe for a 
bicycle rider to attempt to ride through a crowded city- 
street after only five hours' practice spread out in bits 
of ten seconds each over a period of five years, yet 
Lilienthal with his brief practice was remarkably suc- 
cessful in meeting the fluctuations and eddies of wind- 
gusts. We thought that if some method could be 
found by which it would be possible to practice by the 
hour instead of by the second, there would be a hope of 
advancing the solution of a very difficult problem. 



The brothers found that winds of the velocity 
they desired for their experiments were common on 
the coast of North Carolina. They pitched their 
camp at Kitty Hawk in October, 1900, and made a 
brief and successful trial of their gliding machine. 
Next year, they returned w T ith a much larger 
machine; and in 1902 they continued their experi- 
ments w T ith a model still further improved from 
then first design. Having tested their theories 
and become convinced that they were definitely 
on the right track, they were no longer satisfied 
merely to glide. They set about constructing a 
power machine. Here a new problem met them. 
They had decided on two screw propellers rotating 
in opposite directions on the principle of wings in 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 239 

flight; but the proper diameter, pitch, and area of 
blade were not easily arrived at. 

On December 17, 1903, the first Wright biplane 
was ready to navigate the air and made four brief 
successful flights. Subsequent flights in 1904 dem- 
onstrated that the problem of equilibrium had 
not been fully solved; but the experiments of 1905 
banished this difficulty. 

The responsibility which the Wrights placed 
upon the aviator for maintaining his equilibrium, 
and the tailless design of their machine, caused 
much headshaking among foreign flying men when 
Wilbur Wright appeared at the great aviation meet 
in France m 1908. But he won the Michelin Prize 
of eight hundred pounds by beating previous rec- 
ords for speed and for the time which any ma- 
chine had remained in the air. He gave exhibitions 
also in Germany and Italy and instructed Italian 
army officers in the flying of Wright machines. At 
this time Orville was giving similar demonstrations 
in America. Transverse control, the warping device 
invented by the Wright brothers for the preservation 
of lateral balance and for artificial inclination in 
making turns, has been employed in a similar or 
modified form in most airplanes since constructed. 

There was no "mine" or "thine" in the diction 



MO THE AGE OF INVENTION 

of the "Wright brothers; only "we" and "ours/* 
They were joint inventors; they shared their fame 
equally and all their honors and prizes also until 
the death of Wilbur in 1912. They were the first 
inventors to make the ancient dream of flying man 
a reality and to demonstrate that reality to the 
practical world. 

When the NC flying boats of the United States 
navy lined up at Trepassey in May, 1919, for their 
Atlantic venture, and the press was full of pictures 
of them, how many hasty readers, eager only for 
news of the start, stopped to think what the 
initials NC stood for? 

The seaplane is the chief contribution of Glenn 
Hammond Curtiss to aviation, and the Navy Cur- 
tiss Number Four, which made the first transatlan- 
tic flight in history, was designed by hiim The 
spirit of cooperation, expressed in pooling ideas 
and fame, which the Wright brothers exemplified, 
is seen again in the association of Curtiss with the 
n^vy during the war. NC is a fraternity badge 
signifying equal honors. 

Curtiss, in 1900, was — like the Wrights — the 
owner of a small bicycle shop. It was at Ham- 
mondsport, New York. He was an enthusiastic 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 241 

cyclist, and speed was a mania with him. He 
evolved a motor cycle with which he broke all 
records for speed over the ground. He started a 
factory and achieved a reputation for excellent 
motors. He designed and made the engine for the 
dirigible of Captain Thomas S. Baldwin; and for 
th^ first United States army dirigible in 1905. 

Curtiss carried on some of his experiments in 
association with Alexander Graham Bell, who was 
trying to evolve a stable flying machine on the 
principle of the cellular kite. Bell and Curtiss, 
with three others, formed in 1907, the Aerial Ex- 
perimental Association at Bell's country house in 
Canada, which was fruitful of results, and Curtiss 
scored several notable triumphs with the craft, they 
designed. But the idea of a machine which could 
descend and propel itself on water possessed his 
mind, and in 1911 he exhibited at the aviation meet 
in Chicago the hydroaeroplane. An incident there 
set him dreaming of the life-saving systems on 
great waters, His hydroaeroplane had just re- 
turned to its hangar, after a series of maneuvers, 
when a monoplane in flight broke out of control 
and plunged into Lake Michigan. The Curtiss 
machine left its hangar on the minute, covered the 
intervening mile, and alighted on the water to offer 



242 THE AGE OF INVENTION 

aid. The presence of boats made the good offices 
of the hydroaeroplane unnecessary on that occa- 
sion; but the incident opened up to the mind of 
Curtiss new possibilities. 

In the first years of the World War Curtiss built 
airplanes and flying boats for the Allies. The 
United States entered the arena and called for his 
services. The Navy Department called for the 
big flying boat; and the NC type was evolved, 
which, equipped with four Liberty Motors, crossed 
the Atlantic after the close of the war. 

The World War, of course, brought about the 
magical development of all kinds of air craft. 
Necessity not only mothered invention but forced 
it to cover a normal half century of progress in four 
years. While Curtiss worked with the navy, the 
Dayton-Wright factory turned out the famous 
DH fighting planes under the supervision of Orville 
Wright. The second initial here stands for Havi- 
land, as the DH was designed by Geoffrey de 
Haviland, a British inventor. 

Th:; year 1919 saw the first transatlantic flights. 
The NC4, with Lieutenant Commander Albert 
Cushing Read and crew, left Trepassey, New- 
foundland, on the 16th of May and in twelve hours 
arrived at Horta, the Azores, more than a thousand 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 243 

miles away. All along the course the navy had 
strung a chain of destroyers, with signaling appara- 
tus and searchlights to guide the aviators. On the 
twenty-seventh, NC4 took off from San Miguel, 
Azores, and in nine hours made Lisbon — Lisbon, 
Capital of Portugal, which sent out the first bold 
mariners to explore the Sea of Darkness, prior to 
Columbus. On the thirtieth, NC4 took off for 
Plymouth, England, and arrived in ten hours and 
twenty minutes. Perhaps a phantom ship, with 
sails set and flags blowing, the name Mayflower on 
her hull, rode in Plymouth Harbor that day to 
greet a New England pilot. 

On the 14th of June the Vickers-Vimy Rolls- 
Royce biplane, piloted by John Alcock and with 
Arthur Whitten Brown as observer-navigator, left 
St. John's, Newfoundland, and arrived at Clifden, 
Ireland, in sixteen hours twelve minutes, hav- 
ing made the first non-stop transatlantic flight. 
Hawker and Grieve meanwhile had made the same 
gallant attempt in a single-engined Sopwith ma- 
chine; and had come down in mid-ocean, after fly- 
ing fourteen and a half hours, owing to the failure 
of their water circulation. Their rescue by slow 
Danish Mary completed a fascinating tale of herok 
adventure. 



Ml THE AGE OF INVENTION 

The British dirigible K34, with Major G. H. 
Scott in command, left East Fortune, Scotland, on 
the 2d of July, and arrived at Mineola, New York, 
on the sixth. The R34 made the return voyage in 
seventy-five hours. In November, 1919, Captain 
Sir Ross Smith set off from England in a biplane 
to win a prize of ten thousand pounds offered by 
the Australian Commonwealth to the first Aus- 
tralian aviator to fly from England to Australia in 
thirty days. Over France, Italy, Greece, over the 
Holy Land, perhaps over the Garden of Eden, 
whence the winged cherubim drove Adam and Eve, 
over Persia, India, Siam, the Dutch East Indies to 
Port Darwin in northern Australia; and then south- 
eastward across Australia itself to Sydney, the bi- 
plane flew without mishap. The time from Houns- 
low, England, to Port Darwin was twenty-seven 
days, twenty hours, and twenty minutes. Early 
in 1920 the Boer airman Captain Van Ryneveld 
made the flight from Cairo to the Cape. 

Commercial development of the airplane and the 
airship commenced after the war. The first air 
service for United States mails was, in fact, in- 
augurated during the war, between New York and 
Washington. The transcontinental service was 
established soon afterwards, and a regular lin« 



THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR 245 

between Key West and Havana. French and Brit- 
ish companies began to operate daily between Lon- 
don and Paris carrying passengers and mail . Airship 
companies were formed in Australia, South Africa, 
and India. In Canada airplanes were soon being 
used in prospecting the Labrador timber regions, 
in making photographs and maps of the northern 
wilderness, and by the Northwest Mounted Police. 
It is not for history to prophesy. "Emblem of 
much, and of our Age of Hope itself," Carlyle 
called the balloon of his time, born to mount majes- 
tically but "unguidably" only to tumble "whither 
Fate will." But the air craft of our day is guidable. 
and our Age of Hope is not rudderless nor at the 
mercy of Fate. 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

General 

A clear, non-technical discussion of the basis of all 
industrial progress is Power, by Charles E. Lucke 
(1911), which discusses the general principle of the 
substitution of power for the labor of men. Many of 
the references given in Colonial Folkways, by C. M. 
Andrews {The Chronicles of America, vol.ix), are valu- 
able for an understanding of early industrial conditions. 
The general course of industry and commerce in the 
United States is briefly told by Carroll D. Wright in 
The Industrial Evolution of the United States (1907), by 
E. L. Bogart in The Economic History of the United 
States (1920), and by Katharine Coman in The Indus- 
trial History of the United States (1911). A Documen- 
tary History of American Industrial Society, 10 vols. 
(1910-11), edited by John R. Commons, is a mine of 
material. See also Emerson D. Fite, Social and Indus- 
trial Conditions in the North During the Civil War 
(1910) . The best account of the inventions of the nine- 
teenth century is The Progress of Invention in the Nine- 
teenth Century by Edward W. Byrn (1900). George 
lies in Leading American Inventors (1912) tells the 
story of several important inventors and their work. 
The same author in Flame, Electricity and the Camera 
(1900) gives much valuable information. 

247 



US BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Chapter I 

The primary source of information on Benjamin 
Franklin is contained in his own writings. These were 
compiled and edited by Jared Sparks, The Works of 
. . . Franklin . . . with Notes and a Life of the 
Author, 10 vols. (1836-40) ; and later by John Bigelow, 
The Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin; including 
His Private as well as His Official and Scientific Corre« 
spondence, and Numerous Letters and Documents Now 
for the First Time Printed, with Many Others not in- 
cluded in Any Former Collection, also, the Unmutilated 
and Correct Version of His Autobiography, 10 vols. 
(1887-88). Consult also James Parton, The Life and 
Times of Benjamin Franklin, 2 vols. (1864); S. G. 
Fisher, The True Benjamin Franklin (1899) ; Paul Lei- 
cester Ford, The Many-Sided Franklin (1899); John 
T. Morse, Benjamin Franklin (1889) in the American 
Statesmen series; and Lindsay Swift, Benjamin Frank- 
lin (1910) in Beacon Biographies. On the Patent 
Office: Henry L. Ellsworth, A Digest of Patents Issued 
by the United States from 1790 to January 1, 1839 
(Washington, 1840) ; also the regular Reports and pub- 
lications of the United States Patent Office. 

Chapter II 

The first life of Eli Whitney is the Memoir by Deni- 
son Olmsted (1846), and a collection of Whitney's let- 
ters about the cotton gin may be found in The Amer- 
ican Historical Review, vol. in (1897). "Eli Whit- 
ney and His Cotton Gin,'* by M. F. Foster, is in- 
cluded in the Transactions of the New England Cotton 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 249 

Manufacturers* Association, no. 67 (October, 1899). 
See also D wight Goddard, A Short Story of Eli Whitney 
(1904) ; D. A. Tompkins, Cotton and Cotton Oil (1901) ; 
James A. B. Scherer, Cotton as a World Power (1916); 
E.C.Bates, The Story of the Cotton Gin (1899), reprinted 
from The New England Magazine, May, 1890; and 
Eugene Clyde Brooks, The Story of Cotton and the 
Development of the Cotton States (1911). 

Chapter III 

For an account of James Watt's achievements, see 
I. Cleland, Historical Account of the Steam Engine 
(1825) and John W. Grant, Watt and the Steam Age 
(1917). On Fulton: R. H. Thurston, Robert Fulton 
(1891) in the Makers of America series; A. C. Sutcliffe, 
Robert Fulton and the "Clermont" (1909); II. W. Dick- 
inson, Robert Fulton, Engineer and Artist; His Life and 
Works (1913). For an ac-ount of John Stevens, see 
George lies, Leading American Inventors (1912), and 
Dwight Goddard, A Short Story of John Stevens and 
His Sons in Eminent Engineers (1905). See also John 
Stevens, Documents Tending to Prove the Superior 
Advantages of Rail-Ways and Steam- Carriages over 
Canal Navigation (1812), reprinted in The Magazine of 
History with Notes and Queries, Extra Number 54 
(1917). On Evans: "Oliver Evans and His Inven- 
tion.?." by Coleman Sellers, in The Journal of the Frank- 
lin Institute, July, 1886, vol. cxxn. 

Chapter IV 

On the general subject of cotton manufacture and 
machinery, see: J. L. Bishop, History of American 



250 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Manufactures from 1608 to 1860, 3 vols. (1864-67); 
Samuel Batchelder, Introduction and Early Progress of 
the Cotton Manufacture in the United States (1863); 
James Montgomery, A Practical Detail of the Cotton 
Manufacture of the United States of America (1840); 
Melvin T. Copeland, The Cotton Manufacturing Indus- 
try of the United States (1912); and John L. Hayes, 
American Textile Machinery (1879). Harriet H. 
Robinson, Loom and Spindle (1898), is a description of 
the life of girl workers in the early factories written by 
one of them. Charles Dickens, American Notes, Chap- 
ter IV, is a vivid account of the life in the Lowell mills. 
See also Nathan Appleton, Introduction of the Power 
Loom and Origin of Lowell (1858); H. A. Miles, Lowell, 
as It Was, and as It Is (1845), and G. S. White, Memoir 
of Samuel Slater (1836). On Elias Howe, see Dwight 
Goddard, A Short Story of Elias Howe in Eminent 
Engineers (1905). 

Chapter V 

The story of the reaper is told in : Herbert N. Casson, 
Cyrus Hall McCormick; His Life and Work (1909), and 
The Romance of the Reaper (1908), and Merritt F. 
Milier, Evolution of Reaping Machines (1902), U. S. 
Experiment Stations Office, Bulletin 103. Other farm 
inventions are covered in : William Macdonald, Makers 
of Modern Agriculture (1913); Emile Guarini, "The 
Use of Electric Power in Plowing' ' in The Electrical 
Review, vol. xliii; A. P. Yerkes, The Gas Tractor in 
Eastern Farming (1918), U. S. Department of Agricul- 
ture, Farmer's Bulletin 1004; and Herbert N. Casson 
and others, Horse, Truck and Tractor; the Coming of 
Cheaper Power for City and Farm (1913). 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 251 

Chapter VI 

An account of an early "agent of communica- 
tion" is given by W. F. Bailey, article on the "Pony 
Express" in The Century Magazine, vol. xxxiv (1898). 
For the story of the telegraph and its inventors, see: 
S. I. Prime, Life of Samuel F. B. Morse (1875) ; S. F. B. 
Morse, The Electro- Magnetic Telegraph (1858) and 
Examination of the Telegraphic Apparatus and the Pro- 
cess in Telegraphy (18G9); Guglielmo Marconi, The 
Progress of Wireless Telegraphy (1912) in the Transac- 
tions of the New York Electrical Society, no. 15 ; and Ray 
Stannard Baker, "Marconi's Achievement" in Mc- 
Clure's Magazine, vol. xviii (1902). On the telephone, 
see Herbert N. Casson, History of the Telephone (1910) ; 
and Alexander Graham Bell, The Telephone (1878). 
On the cable: Charles Bright, The Story of the Atlantic 
Cable (1903). For facts in the history of printing and 
descriptions of printing machines, see: Edmund G. 
Gress, American Handbook of Printing (1907); Robert 
Hoe, A Short History of the Printing Press and of the 
Improvements in Printing Machinery (1902); and Otto 
Schoenrich, Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler and 
History of the Linotype (1898), written under Mr. 
Mergenthaler's direction. On the best-known New 
York newspapers, see: H. Hapgood and A. B. Maurice, 
"The Great Newspapers of the United States; the 
New York Newspapers," in The Bookman, vols, xiv and 
xv (1902). On the typewriter, see Charles Edward 
Weller, The Early History of the Typewriter (1918). 
On the camera, Paul Lewis Anderson, "The Story of 
Photography" (1918) in The Mentor, vol. vi, no. 12; 
and on the motion picture, Colin N. Bennett, The 



252 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Handbook of Kinematography ; The History, Theory and 
Practice of Motion Photography and Projection, London: 
Kinematograph Weekly (1911). 



Chapter VII 

For information on the subject of rubber and the life 
of Charles Goodyear, see: H. Wickham, On the Planta- 
tion, Cultivation and Curing of Para Indian Rubber, 
London (1908); Francis Ernest Lloyd, Guayide, a 
Rubber Plant of the Chihuahuan Desert, Washington 
(1911), Carnegie Institute publication no. 139; Charles 
Goodyear, Gum Elastic and Its Varieties (1853) ; James 
Parton, Famous Americans of Recent Times (1867); 
and The Rubber Industry, Being the Official Report of 
the Proceedings of the International Rubber Congress 
(London, 1911), edited by Joseph Torey and A. Staines 
Manders. 

Chapter VIII 

J. W. Roe, English and American Tool Builders 
(1916), and J. V. Woodworth, American Tool Making 
and Interchangeable Manufacturing (1911), give general 
accounts of great American mechanics. 

For an account of John Stevens and Robert L. and 
E. A. Stevens, see George lies, Leading American In- 
ventors (1912); Dwight Goddard, A Short Story of 
John Stevens and His Sons in Eminent Engineers (1905), 
and R. H. Thurston, The Messrs. Stevens, of Hoboken, 
as Engineers, Naval Architects and Philanthropists 
(1874), Journal of the Franklin Institute, October, 
1874. For Whitney's contribution to machine shop 
methods, see Olmstead's Memoir already cited and Roe 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 25& 

and Woodworth, already cited. For Blanchard, see 
Dwight Goddard, A Short Story of Thomas Blanchard 
in Eminent Engineers (1905), and for Samuel Colt, see 
his own "On the Application of Machinery to the 
Manufacture of Rotating Chambered-Breech Fire- 
Arms, and Their Peculiarities" (1855), an excerpt from 
the Minutes of Proceedings of the Institute of Civil 
Engineers, vol. xi (1853), and Henry Barnard, Arms- 
mear; the Home, the Arm, and the Armory of Samuel 
Colt (1866). 

Chapter IX 

The Story of Electricity (1919) is a popular history 
edited by T. C Martin and S. L. Coles. A more 
specialized account of electrical inventions may be 
found in George Bartlett Prescott's The Speaking 
Telephone, Electric Light, and Other Recent Electrical 
Inventions (1879). 

For Joseph Henry's achievements, see his own Con- 
tributions to Electricity and Galvanism (1835-42) and 
On the Application of the Principle of the Galvanic Mul- 
tiplier to Electro-Magnetic Apparatus (1831), and the 
accounts of others in Henry C. Cameron's Reminis- 
cences of Joseph Henry and W. B. Taylor's Historical 
Sketch of Henry's Contribution to the Electro- Magnetic 
Telegraph (1879), Smithsonian Report, 1878. 

A List of References on the Life and Inventions of 
Thomas A. Edison may be found in the Division of 
Bibliography, U. S. Library of Congress (1916). See 
also F. L. Dyer and T. C. Martin, Edison; His Life and 
Inventions (1910), and " Mr. Edison's Reminiscences 
of the First Central Station" in The Electrical Review, 
vol. xxxviii. On other special topics see: F. E_ 



254 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Leupp, George Westinghouse, His Life and Achievements 
(1918); Elihu Thomson, Induction of Electric Currents 
and Induction Coils (1891), Journal of the Franklin 
Institute, August, 1891 ; and Alex Dow, The Production 
of Electricity by Steam Power (1917). 

Chapter X 

Charles C. Turner, The Romance of Aeronautics 
(1912) ; The Curtiss Aviation Book,by Glenn H. Curtiss 
and Augustus Post (1912); Samuel Pierpont Langley 
and Charles M. Manly, Langley Memoir on Mechanical 
Flight (Smithsonian Institution, 1911); Our Atlantic 
Attempt, by H. G. Hawker and K. Mackenzie Grieve 
(1919); Flying the Atlantic in Sixteen Hours, by Sir 
Arthur Whitten Brown (1920); Practical Aeronautics, 
by Charles B. Hay ward, with an Introduction by Or- 
ville Wright (1912); Aircraft; Its Development in War 
and Peace, by Evan J. David (1919). Accounts of the 
nights across the Atlantic are given in The Aerial Year 
Book and Who's Who in the Air (1920), and the story 
of NC4 is told in The Flight Across the Atlantic, issued 
by the Department of Education, Curtiss Aeroplane 
and Motor Corporation (1919). 



INDEX 



Acheson, E. B., invents car- 
borundum, 216-17 

Adams, Henry, History of the 
United States, quoted, 111 

Adams, J. Q., and Morse, 136; 
and Eli Whitney, 184 

Aerial Experimental Associ- 
ation, 241 

Aerial navigation, 220 et seq.; 
bibliography, 254 

Aeroplanes, see Aerial navi- 
gation, Airplanes 

Agobard, Bishop, writes to 
prove impossibility of flying, 
226 

Agricultural machinery, bibli- 
ography, 250; see also Agri- 
cultural revolution, names 
of implements 

Agricultural revolution, 110 et 
seq. 

Airplanes, 225 et seq.; see also 
Aerial navigation 

Albany Conference, 16 

Alcock, John, transatlantic 
flight, 243 

Alexander the Great intro- 
duces cotton into Europe, 32 

Alexanderson, and wireless 
telegraphy, 146 

Allen, Horatio, brings loco- 
motive from England, 78 

Allston, Washington, Ameri- 
can artist, and Morse, 132- 
133, 136 

Almy, William, partner of 
Moses Brown, 86, 87 

Aluminum, 216 



American Philosophical So- 
ciety, 14 

American Turtle, submarine, 
64 (note) 

Ampere, A. M., French investi- 
gator of electricity, 195 

Appleby, J. F., invents binder, 
119 

Appleton, Nathan, Boston 
merchant, 89; and Lowell 
enterprise, 90, 91, 92 

Arkwright, Richard, invents 
water-frame, 35; looms in- 
troduced into New England, 
97 

Arlandes, Marquis d', first 
balloon flight, 221; and 
Franklin, 224 

Arms, see Firearms 

Automobiles, 202; storage bat~ 
tery, 216 

Bachelder, John, and sewing 
machine, 104 

Bacon, Roger, on subject of 
flight, 226 

Bailey, Jeremiah, invents 
mower, 121 

Baily, Francis, patent for 
punches for type, 29 

Baldwin, Matthias, loco- 
motives, 82 

Baldwin, Captain T. S., diri- 
gible, 241 

Balloons, 221-25 

Baltimore, Democratic Na- 
tional Convention (1844* 
uses telegraph, 143-44 



255 



256 



INDEX 



Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 

80 
Banks, Sir Joseph, Franklin's 

letter to, 223-24 
Banks, N. P., cousin of Elias 

Howe, 99 
Barlow, Joel, and Fulton, 

63 
Barnard, Henry, Armsmear, 

quoted, 191 
Bayard, William, at Castle 

Point, 177 
Beach, A. E., typewriter, 150; 

device for embossing letters 

for blind, 150 
Bell, A. G., telephone, 146, 

196; and Henry, 201-02; 

Aerial Experimental Associ- 
ation, 241 
Bell, Patrick, invents reaper, 

116 
Besnier, invents flying machine, 

227 
Best Friend of Charleston, loco- 
motive, 80 
Binders, 119-20 
Blake, L. B., sole-sewing ma- 
chine, 108 
Blanchard, Thomas, inventor 

of machine tools, 185-87; 

bibliography, 253 
Blenkinsop, steam railway 

experiments, 78 
Bliss, G. W., Elias Howe and, 

103 
Boott, Kirk, partner in Lowell 

mills, 91 
Boston, Franklin's home in, 1- 

3; Franklin visits, 9 
Boulton, Matthew, associate of 

Watt, 55, 56 
Braddock, General, Franklin 

and, 16-17 
Bradford, William, printer in 

New York, 3 
Bradley, C. S., electrical in- 
ventor, 218 
Braithwaite. John, locomotive 
race, 79 



Bridgewater, Francis, Duke of* 
and Fulton, 62 

Brindley, James, and Fulton, 
62 

Brodie (Colorado), hydro- 
station at, 219 

Brown, A. W., transatlantic 
flight, 243 

Brown, Moses, and spinning 
machine, 86, 87 

Brush, C. F., electric lighting, 
203 

Burt, William, typewriter, 
150 

Bushnell, David, invents sub- 
marine, 64 (note) 

Cable, Atlantic, 145-46; bibli- 
ography, 251 

Calcium carbide, 217 

Calhoun, J. C, Lowell and, 
90 

California, market for clothing, 
107 

Camden and Amboy Railroad, 
80, 178 

Camera, see Photography 

Candles, patent for method of 
making, 29 

Carborundum, 216-17 

Cartwright, Edmund, invents 
self-acting loom, 36, 97 

Castle Point, Stevens's home at, 
177 

Castner, H. Y., aluminum 
manufacture, 216 

Cavendish, Henry, English in- 
vestigator of electricity, 
195 

Cayley, Sir George, principles 
of flying, 229 

Center, Joab, hay spreader, 
122 

Chambers's Encyclopaedia as 
newspaper feature, 6 

Charles, J. A. C, French in- 
ventor of balloon, 222, 224 

Charleston and Hamburg Rail- 
road, 80 



INDEX 



25' 



Charlotte Dundas, steamboat, 
65 

Chicago, McCormick in, 118 

Choate, Rufus, Goodyear vs. 
Day, 157 

Circulation of blood, Harvey 
discovers, 12 (note) 

Civil War, marks beginning of 
new period in industry, 
124 

Clermont, Fulton's steamboat, 
60, 65-67, 68 

Cleveland, first electric light- 
ing in, 203 

Clocks, pendulum clocks in 
Middle Ages, 12 (note) 

Clothing, manufacture of, 106- 
107 

Clymer, George, Columbian 
press, 147 

Collinson, Peter, and Franklin, 
9-10 

Colt, Samuel, revolver, 187- 
189; arms factory, 190-91; 
bibliography, 253 

Commerce at end of 18th cen- 
tury, 25-26 

Communication, Agents of, 
128 et seq.\ bibliography, 
251; see also Transportation 

Compass, Mariner's ancients 
know of, 12 (note) 

Congress, first Patent Act 
(1790), 27-30, 176; second 
Patent Act (1793), 30-31; 
Evans petitions for exten- 
sion of patent, 72-73; Morse 
petitions for appropriation, 
139, 141 

Coolidge, W. D., ductile tungs- 
ten, 212-13 

Cooper, J. F., attack on Adams, 
136 

Cooper, Peter, designs loco- 
motive, 80; Atlantic Cable, 
145-46 

Corliss, G. H., engine, 83 

Corn-binders, 122 

Corn-shellers, 122-23 



Cornell, Ezra, telegraph con- 
struction, 142-43, 144 

Cotton, history of use, 32-33; 
introduced into colonies, 33- 
34; difficulties in cleaning of, 
34-35; inventions for manu- 
facture of, 35-36; see also 
Cotton gin, Cotton manu- 
facture, Textile industry 

Cotton gin, patented, 30-31; 
Eli Whitney and, 32 el seq.; 
infringements of patent, 44; 
influence, 84; and Civil 
War, 124; effect on South, 
125; bibliography, 248-49 

Cotton manufacture, bibli- 
ography, 249-50; see also 
Textile industry 

Coulomb, C. A. de, French in- 
vestigator of electricity, 195 

Courtenay, Viscount, and Ful- 
ton, 62 

Crompton, Samuel, invents 
mule, 35 

Cumberland Road, 77 

Curtis, Harriot ("Mina 
Myrtle"), in Lowell mills, 
93 

Curtis, steam turbine, 218 

Curtiss, G. H., airplanes, 240- 
242 

Daft, Leo, contribution to 

trolley system, 214 
Daguerre, L. J. M., and pho- 
tography, 140 
Dana, J. F., and Morse, 134 
Davenport, Thomas, pioneer 

of automobile in America, 

202 
Davis, Ari, Howe in shop of, 

99 
Davis, Jefferson, on W r hitney's 

rifles, 183 
Day, Jeremiah, and Morse, 

130-31 
Deere, John, ploughs, 113 
Deering, W'illiam, competitor 

of McCormick, 119 



25$ 



INDEX 



De Forest, Lee, wireless teleg- 
raphy, 146 

Densmore, James, typewriter, 
151, 152 

De Witt Clinton, locomotive, 
81 

Dickens, Charles, visits 

Lowell, 94; American Notes, 
quoted, 94-96 

Dinwiddie, Governor of Vir- 
ginia, problem of funds for 
defense, 16 

Draper, J. W., photography, 
140, 153 

Drills, 115 

Du Fay, French investigator 
of electricity, 195 

Dulles, J. M., letter describing 
Morse, 131-32 

Dyer and Martin, Edison, 
quoted, 209 

East Bridgewater (Massachu- 
setts), spinning machine 
made in, 85 

East India Company import 
cotton fabrics, 32-33 

Eastman, George, kodak, 153- 
154 

Eastman Company, introduces 
film cartridge, 154; motion 
picture films, 155 

Eaton, Theophilus, Goodyear's 
ancestor associated with, 
165 

Edison, John, grandfather of 
T. A., 204 

Edison, Samuel, father of T. 
A., 204 

Edison, T. A., 196; phono- 
graph, 152, 210; motion 
pictures, 154; "kinetoscope," 
155; antecedents, 203-04; 
birth (1847), 204; boyhood, 
204-06; tramp telegrapher, 
206; in Boston, 206-07; 
automatic vote recorder, 
207; stock ticker, 207; du- 
plex telegraph, 207; goes to 



New York, 207; firm of 
Pope, Edison, and Company; 
208; improved stock ticker 
208; shop in Newark, 208 
automatic telegraph, 208 
209; cable experiments, 208 
quadruple telegraph, 208 
209; district messenger call 
box system, 209; telephone 
209; electro-motograph, 210 
at Menlo Park, 210; light 
ing system, 210-12; dynamo, 
211; incandescent lamp, 210^ 
211; experimental electric 
railway, 214; "Wizard of 
Menlo Park," 215; at West 
Orange, 215; storage battery, 
216; bibliography, 253 

Edwards, Henrietta, marries 
Eli Whitney, 183 

Edwards, Jonathan, grand- 
father of Mrs. Eli Whitney, 
183 

Edwards, Judge Pierpont, 
father of Mrs. Eli Whitney, 
183 

Electric lighting, 203, 210- 
213 

Electric railways, 214 

Electricity, 194 et seq.; Frank- 
lin's discoveries, 9-11; bibli- 
ography, 253-54 

Ellsworth, Annie E„ informs 
Morse of passage of appro- 
priation bill, 142; and first 
use of telegraph, 143 

Ericsson, John, experiments 
with steam locomotives, 78, 
79; builds Monitor, 179 

Erie Canal, Fulton on com- 
mission, 68; Stevens ad- 
dresses commissioners, 75; 
completed (1825), 77 

Evans, Oliver, 175; application 
of steam, 23; machine for 
flour manufacture, 29, 70, 
71, 72; invents high-pressure 
engine, 55-56, 70, 71; quoted, 
69-70; early life. 70-7 1; 



INDEX 



259 



Evans, Oliver — Continued 
Millwright and Miller s 
Guide, 71: Oruktor Amphi- 
bolos, 72, 83; Young Engi- 
neer's Guide,73; death(1819), 
74; prophecy as to use of 
locomotive, 74; bibliography, 
249 

Faraday, Michael, English in- 
vestigator of electricity, 195; 
and Henry, 197; dynamo, 
202 

Farley, Harriet, in Lowell 
factory, 93 

Farm inventions, see Agri- 
cultural machinery 

Farmer, M. G., electric-driven 
locomotive (1847), 202 

Fessenden, R. A., and wireless 
telegraphy, 146 

Field, C. W., and Atlantic 
Cable, 145-46 

Field, S. D., electric railway, 
214 

Firearms, Whitney manu- 
factures, 180-82, 183; 
North's plant, 182; machine 
tools and standardization of 
parts, 185; Colt as inventor 
and manufacturer, 187-91 

Fisher, George, and Howe, 
100 

Fitch, John, steamboat, 22-23, 
29, 59; patent for distilling 
alcohol, 30; life, 58-59 

Floridas, Spanish possession 
(1790), 23 

Folger, Abiah, mother of 
Franklin, 1 

Folger, Peter, grandfather of 
Franklin, 1 

France, Franklin in, 19-21; 
Treaty of Alliance, 21; Ful- 
ton in, 63; balloon experi- 
ments, 220-24 

Francis, S. W., typewriter, 
150 

Franklin, Benjamin, parents, 



1; birth (1706), 1; child- 
hood, 2; Autobiography, 2; 
apprenticed, 3; journey to 
Philadelphia, 3; finds em- 
ployment, 3; goes to London, 
4; A Dissertation on Liberty 
and Necessity, 4; returns to 
Philadelphia, 4; founds Jun- 
to, 5; established in business, 
5; The Nature and Necessity 
of a Paper Currency, 5; and 
Pennsylvania Gazette 6-7, 
149; Poor Richard's Alman- 
ack, 7; keeps a shop, 7; 
frugality, 8; Journal of a 
Voy age from London to Phila- 
delphia, 8; invents stove, 9; 
bifocal spectacles, 9; interest 
in natural phenomena, 8-12; 
discoveries in electricity, 9- 
11; elected member of Royal 
Society, 11; influence, 12-13; 
establishes first circulating 
librarv, 13; founds academy, 
13; Plain Truth, 13; and 
American Philosophical So • 
ciety,14; Deputy Postmaster 
General, 14-15; "Albany 
Plan of Union," 15-16; anil 
Braddock, 16-17; sent tj 
London by Assembly, 18; 
and the Revolution, 18-21; 
in Continental Congress, 19; 
accomplishments (1775-76), 
19; envoy to France (1776), 
19-21; President of Council 
of Pennsylvania, 21; Con- 
vention of 1787, 21; death 
(1790), 23; find balloons, 
220-25; bibliography, 248 

Franklin, James, brother of 
Benjamin, 2-3 

Franklin, Josiah, father of 
Benjamin, 1 

Franklin, \\ illiam, son of Ben- 
jamin, 18 

Franklin Institute, 139 

Franklin stove, 9 

French and Indian Wars, 15-18 



260 



INDEX 



Fulton, Robert, and Henry, 
58; as an artist, 61-62; early 
mechanical ability, 61; in 
England, 62; invents means 
of sawing marble, 62-63; 
improves wheel for spinning 
flax, 63; machine for making 
rope, 63; method of raising 
canal boats, 63; improve- 
ment in tanning, 63; A 
Treatise on the Improvement 
of Canal Navigation, 63; goes 
to France, 63; interest in 
submarines, 63-64; interest 
in steamboat, 64-65; Cler- 
mont, 60, 65-68; reasons for 
success, 67; bibliography, 
249 

Gale, L. D., colleague of 
Morse, 138; partnership in 
telegraph, 139, 142 (note) 

Galvani, Aloisio, Italian in- 
vestigator of electricity, 195 

Georgia, population (1790), 23; 
Whitney in, 38 et seq.; 
Whitney's suits, 44-45, 51 

Gifford, George, suggests sew- 
ing machine "combination," 
105 

Gilbert, William, father of 
electricity, 194; On the Mag- 
net, 195 

Girard, Stephen, Philadelphia 
merchant, 26 

Glidden, Carlos, suggests type- 
writer, 151 

Goodwin, Hannibal, cellulose 
film, 154 

Goodyear, Amasa, father of 
Charlec, 165, 166 

Goodyear, Charles, Goodyear 
vs. Day, 157-60; beginning 
of interest in rubber, 164-65; 
birth (1800), 165; early life, 
166; imprisonment for debt, 
166-67; experiments with 
rubber, 167-69; discovers 
orocess of vulcanization, 169; 



hardships, 170-72; patent 
(1844), 172; later life, 174; 
bibliography, 252 

Goodyear, Stephen, ancestor 
of Charles, 165 

Goodyear vs. Day, 157-60 

Gorham, M. L., invents binder 
using twine, 119 

Gould, Jay, Edison and, 209 

Gravitation, Newton discovers 
law of, 12 (note) 

Gray, Stephen, English in- 
vestigator of electricity, 195 

Great Britain, steam engine, 
53-55; monopoly of me- 
chanical contrivances, 65; 
railway invention in, 77-78, 
79; textile industry in, 84- 
85; Colt in, 191; Edison in- 
troduces automatic teleg- 
raphy into, 208 

Great War, air craft in, 242 

Great Western, first trans- 
atlantic steamship, 69; 
Morse on, 139 

Greene, Mrs. Nathanael, and 
Whitney, 38, 40; marries 
Miller, 41 

Grieve, attempted trans- 
atlantic flight, 243 

Grover and Baker, manu- 
facturers of sewing machines, 
106 

Guericke, Otto von, German 
investigator of electricity, 
195 

Gusmao, Bartholomeo de, in- 
vents flying machine (1709), 
227 

Hackworth, Timothy, maker 
of locomotive, 79 

Hall, C. M., invents method of 
aluminum manufacture, 216 

Hammond, "Correspondence 
of Eli Whitney," cited, 40 
(note) 

Hancock, John, Boston mer- 
chant. 26 



INDEX 



261 



Hanson, Harriet (Mrs. W. S. 
Robinson), in Lowell factory, 
93 
Hargreaves, James, invents 

spinning jenny, 35 
Harvesting machinery, 115- 

123 
Haviland, Geoffrey de, British 
airplane inventor, 242 

Hawker, attempted trans- 
atlantic flight, 243 

Havrakes, 122 

Hendrick, B. J., The Age of Big 
Business, cited, 117 (note), 
146, 209 (note) 

Henrv, Joseph, investigator of 
electricity, 195-96, 200; dis- 
coveries, 196-97; principle 
of electric telegraph, 198-99; 
at Princeton, 199; Secretary 
of Smithsonian Institution, 
200-01; on Lighthouse 
Board, 201; and Morse, 201; 
and Bell, 201-02; blazes way 
for electric motor, 202; dy- 
namo, 202; bibliography, 
253 

Henry, William, constructs 
steamboat, 58 

Herald, New York, 146-47 

Herrera, Spanish historian, on 
rubber balls, 161 

Hewitt, A. S., quoted, 177 

Heyl, Henry, stages first 
motion pictures, 154-55 

Highland and Agricultural 
Society of Edinburgh, Bell 
receives prize from, 116 

Hoe, Robert, printing press, 
147, 148 

Hoe, R. M., son of Robert, in- 
vents rotary press, 148 

Holmes, Hogden, improves 
cotton gin, 51 

Hood, Thomas, The Song of the 
Shirt, 98 

Hopkins, Samuel, first to re- 
ceive patent under Patent 
Act, 28 



Howe, Elias, birth (1819), 08 
early life, 98-99; invents 
sewing machine, 100-02; in 
London, 102; poverty, 103; 
infringements, 103-04; set- 
tlement of case favors, 104; 
combination of inventors 
and manufacturers, 105-06; 
bibliography, 250 

Hulbert, A. B., The Paths of 
Inland Commerce, cited, 68 
(note) 

Hunt, Walter, invents sewing 
machine, 100, 104 

Hussey, Obed, patents reaper, 
116, 117, 121 

Hydroaeroplane, 241-42 

lies, George, Leading American 
Inventors, cited, 177 (note) 

Industrial Revolution, 36 

Industry, organization in 
United States (1790), 25 

Inglis, Charles, and Howe, 
103 

Ink, Franklin makes, 4 

Jackson, P. T., brother-in-law 

of Lowell, 89; mills at Wal- 

tham, 90-91 
Jefferson, Thomas, Secretary 

of State, 39; plough, 112; 

letter to Jay, cited, 181 
John Bull, locomotive, 81 
Junto, 5, 9, 14 

Kay, John, invents flying 
shuttle, 35 

Keimer, Samuel, employs 
Franklin, 3, 4; bankruptcy, 
6 

Keith, Sir William, Governor 
of Pennsylvania, 4 

Kentucky, pioneers in (1790), 
24 

Kertland, Philip, Lynn shoe- 
maker, 108 

Ketchum, W. F., invents mow- 
ing machine, 122 



4b2 



INDEX 



"Kinetoscope," 155 

Knowles, Hazard, invents 

hinged cutting-bar for 

mower, 121 

Lana, Francisco, airship, 227 

Lane, John, plough, 113 

Lane, John, son of first, pat- 
ents steel plough, 113-14 

Langley, S. P., invents air- 
plane, 229-35 

Langmuir, wireless telegraphy, 
146 

Lanston, Tolbert, invents 
monotype, 149 

Larcom, Lucy, An Idyl of 
Work, 93 

Lathe, Copying, Blanchard 
invents, 186 

Lathrop, John, Franklin's 
letter to, 22 

Lawrence, Abbott, and Lowell 
mills, 93 

Lawrence, Amos, and Lowell 
mills, 93 

Leonardo da Vinci, artist and 
inventor, 61; on subject of 
flight, 226 

Liberty Motors, 242 

Lightning rod, 195 

Lilienthal, Otto, invents glider, 
236 

Linotype, 149 

Livingston, R. R., American 
Minister to France, 64; and 
Fulton, 64-65; Clermont 
named for estate of, 65-66; 
Stevens requests influence 
for railway, 75; statement of 
objection to railways, 76 

Locomotives, birth of modern, 
79; development of, 80-82; 
see also Railroads, Steam 
engines 

Looms, 36; see also Textile 
industry 

Lowell, F. C, establishes 
weaving mills, 89, 90; death 
(1817). 90 



Lowell (Massachusetts), foundU 
ed, 91-93; Dickens describes, 
94-96; changes in, 96-97; 
bibliography, 250 

Lowell Offering, The, 94, 95- 
96 

Lumiere, invents projector for 
motion pictures, 155 

McCormick, C. H., patents 
reaper, 116; sale of ma- 
chines, 117; moves West, 118; 
business capacity, 118; im- 
provements in reaper, 119 

McKay, Gordon, sole-sewing 
machine, 108 

McKinley, William, interest in 
Langley's airplane, 233 

Machine shop, pioneers of, 
175 et seq. 

Machine tools, see Machine 
shop 

Macintosh, Charles, invents 
waterproof cloth, 163 

Maine, population (1790), 23 

Manly, C. M., assists Langley, 
233-34 

Manning, William, invents 
reaper, 116, 117 

Marconi, Guglielmo, wireless 
telegraph, 146 

Menlo Park (New Jersey), 
Edison's laboratories at, 
210; experimental electric 
railway at, 214 

Mercury, rival of Pennsylvania 
Gazette, 6 

Mergenthaler, Ottmar, invents 
linotype, 149 

Merrimac Manufacturing Com- 
pany, 91 

Miller, Lewis, mowing ma- 
chine, 122 

Miller, Phineas, and Whitnev, 
38, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46; death, 
47 

Mohawk and Hudson Rail- 
road, 80 

Monitor, ironclad boat, 17k 



INDEX 



263 



Monotype, 149 

Montgolfier, invents balloon, 
222, 223-24 

Montgomery, James, on 
Lowell mills, 96 

Moody, Paul, partner in 
Lowell enterprise, 89, 90, 
91 

Moors cultivate cotton, 32 

Moravians, 17 

Morse, Reverend Jedidiah, 
father of S. F. B., 131, 132 

Morse, Richard, brother of 
S. F. B., 135 

Morse, Sidney, brother of S. F. 
B., 135 

Morse, S. F. B., 196; and the 
telegraph, 129-44; birth 
(1791), 130; early life, 130- 
131; interest in electricity, 
131, 134; personal char- 
acteristics, 132; as a painter, 
132-33, 135-36; marriage, 
133; poverty, 135, 136-37, 
140; at New York Univer- 
sity, 137-38; invents tele- 
graph, 138-39; petitions 
Congress for appropriation, 
139, 140, 141-42; goes to 
Europe, 139-40; and photog- 
raphy, 140, 153; constructs 
line between Baltimore and 
Washington, 142; trial mes- 
sage, 143; death (1872), 144; 
code used in wireless, 146; 
Henry and, 198, 201; bibli- 
ography, 251 

Motion pictures, 154-56: 
bibliography, 251-52 

Mulliken, Samuel, four patents 
granted to, 29; invents 
threshing machine, 120 

"Myrtle, Mina," 93 

New England, post road, 15; 

textile industry, 84 et seq. 
New England Courant, 3 
New York (State), in 1790, 

23 



New York City, Franklin 
reaches, 3; mail service, 15 

New York University, Morse 
on teaching staff of, 137 

Newbold, Charles, invents 
plough, 112 

Newspapers, inventions to 
facilitate printing, 146-49; 
bibliography, 251 

North, Simeon, manufactures 
firearms, 182 

North Carolina, buys patent 
rights from Whitney, 48 

Northwest Territory, popu- 
lation (1790), 24 

Novelty, The, locomotive, 79 

Oersted, H. C, Danish in- 
vestigator of electricity, 
195 

Ogle, Henry, invents reaper, 
116 

Ohm, G. S., German investi- 
gator of electricity, 195 

Oliver, James, Chilled Plow 
Works, 114 

Olmstead, Denison, Memoir, 
quoted, 183 

Opdyke, George, manufactures 
clothing, 106-07 

Oruktor Amphibolos, steam 
dredging machine, 72, 83 

Otis, E. G., improves elevator 
215 

Page, C. G., drives electric car 

(1851), 202 
Parlin, William, makes 

ploughs, 113 
Parsons, C. A., steam turbine, 

218 
Patent Act (1790), 27-30; 

repealed, 30; due to John 

Stevens, 176; (1793), 30 
Patent Arms Company, 188 
Patent Office, organization, 

30 
Paul, invents projector for 

motion pictures, 155 



264 



INDEX 



Pawtucket Canal Company, 
91 

Peacock, David, invents 
plough, 112 

Pennsylvania in 1790, 23 

"Pennsylvania fireplace," 9 

Pennsylvania Gazette, The, 6, 
149 

Pennsylvania Society for the 
Encouragement of Manu- 
factures and Useful Arts, 
86 

Pennsylvania, University of, 
13 

Philadelphia, Franklin reaches, 
3; mail service, 15 

Philosophical Magazine, quoted, 
197 

Phoenix, Stevens's steamboat, 
60-61 

Phonograph, 152-53 

Photography, 140, 153-54; 
bibliography, 251; see also 
Motion pictures 

Pitts, H. A., inventor of horse- 
power treadmill, 120 

Pitts, J. A., inventor of horse- 
power treadmill, 120 

Ploughs, 111-15 

Polk, J. K., candidate for 
Presidency, 144 

Pony Express, 145 

Pope, F. L., partner of Edison, 
208 

Pope, Edison, and Company, 
first firm of electrical engi- 
neers in United States, 208 

Potash, first patent for, 28 

Prime, S. I., The Life of Samuel 
F. B. Morse, quoted, 131- 
132, 138 

Printing, type, 4, 12 (note); 
punches for type, 29; steam 
driven press, 147-48; rotary 
press, 148; stereotyping, 
148; photo-engraving, 148; 
linotype, 149; monotype, 
149; bibliography, 251 

Providence (Rhode Island), 



attempt to make spinning 
machinery at, 86 

Pullman Cars, 126 

Putnam, Aaron, patent for dis- 
tilling method, 29 

Radio telegraphy, see Wireless 
telegraphy 

Railroads, Stevens advocates, 
75, 77; Livingston's ob- 
jections to, 76; early, 77-78; 
beginning of use of locomo- 
tive, 79-81; growth, 126; 
rails invented by Stevens, 
178; see also Electric rail- 
ways, Locomotives, Steam 
engines, Transportation 

Read, Lieutenant-Commander 
A. C, transatlantic flight, 
242-43 

Read, Deborah, wife of Ben- 
jamin Franklin, 4, 7-8 

Read, Nathan, 30 

Reapers, 115-20, 121; bibli- 
ography, 250 

Remington, Eliphalet, buys 
typewriter patents, 151-52 

Revolutionary War, Franklin 
and, 18-21; beginning of. 
124 

Richmond (Virginia), first elec- 
tric railway system, 214 

Robinson, Mrs. W. S., in Low- 
ell mills, 93 

Rocket, The, locomotive, 79 

Roe, J. W. English and Ameri- 
can Tool Builders, cited, 45 
(note), 49 (note), 181 (note). 
185 (note); quoted, 182 

Root, E. K., and Colt factory, 
190 

Roxbury (Massachusetts), at- 
tempt to make waterproof 
clothing at, 163-64 

Royal Society, Franklin 
elected member of, 11 

Royal William, steamship, 69 

Rozier, Pilatre de, first balloon 
flight, 221 



INDEX 



265 



Rubber, 157 et seq.; bibli- 
ography, 252 

Rumsev, James, steamboat, 
23, 29, 58 

Rust, Samuel, Washington 
press, 147 

Ryneveld, Captain van, flight, 
from Cairo to the Cape, 
244 

Saint, Thomas, patents sewing 

machine, 99 
Sampson, J. S., patent for 

method of making candles, 

29 
Sanspareil, The, locomotive, 

79 
Saturday Evening Post, The, 6 
Saunders, Richard, alleged 

publisher of Poor Richard's 

Almanack, 7 
Savannah (Georgia), post road 

to, 15 
Savannah, sailing packet using 

steam, 69 
Scott, Major G. H., in British 

dirigible, Scotland to New 

York, 244 
Sellers, Coleman, Oliver Evans 

and his Inventions, cited, 

70 (note) 
Sewing machine, 98 et seq. 
ohirley, Governor of Massa- 
chusetts, problem of raising 

funds for defense, 16 
Shoe industry, 107-09 
Sholes, C. L., invents type- 
writer, 151 
Shuttle, flying, 35 
Silliman, Benjamin, Morse a 

student under, 130 
Singer, I. M., and sewing 

machine, 104, 105, 106 
Slater, Samuel, comes to 

United States, 86; introduces 

spinning machinery, 87-88, 

97 
Slavery, effect of cotton gin on, 

49-50; and Civil War, 124 



Smith, F. O. J., partner of 
Morse, 142 (note) 

Smith, Captain Sir Ross, flight 
from England to Australia, 
244 

Smithson, James, bequest to 
United States, 200 

Smithsonian Institution, Henry 
as head of, 200-01 

Soule, S. W., and the typo- 
writer, 151 

South, W r hitney in, 37 et seq.', 
effect of cotton gin on, 124, 
125 

South Carolina, pays Whitney 
for patent rights, 45-46; 
suspends contract with 
W T hitney, 47-48 

Spectator, London, quoted in 
Pennsylvania Gazette, 6 

Spinning jenny, 35 

Spinning machinery, see Tex- 
tile industry 

Sprague, F. J., designs motors, 
213; electric railway, 214 

Stanhope, Earl, Fulton and, 
62 

Steam, Greeks discover appli- 
cability of, 12 (note) 

Steam engines, 53 et seq.; see 
also Locomotives 

Steam turbine, 83 

Stebbins, Josiah, Whitney's 
letter to, 44, 47-48 

Stephenson, George, experi- 
ments with steam, 78; The 
Rocket, 79; builds John Bull, 
81 

Stephenson, Robert, The Rock- 
et, 79 

Stevens, E. A., youngest son of 
John, 177; founds Stevens 
Institute of Technology, 
178; inventions, 178 

Stevens, John, sets up machine 
shop, 23; patent for propel- 
ling boat, 29; attacks steam- 
boat problem, 59-60; Phoe- 
nix, 60-61; communication 



2m 



INDEX 



Stevens, John — Continued 
to Erie Canal commissioners, 
75, 77; Livingston's answer 
to, 76; experiments -with 
locomotive, 78; interest in 
railroad, 75, 77, 78, 175; 
father of American patent 
law, 176; property on Hud- 
son, 176-77; death (1838), 
177; bibliography, 219, 252 

Stevens, J. A., son of John, 177 

Stevens, J. C, son of John, 177 

Stevens, R. L., son of John, 
177; mechanical star of 
family, 178; first ironclad 
battleship, 179 

Stevens Battery, first ironclad 
battleship, 179 

Stevens family, bibliography, 
252 

Stevens Institute of Technol- 
ogy, 178 

Stone, John, patent for method 
of driving piles, 29 

Stourbridge Lion, locomotive, 
78-79 

Strother, General, story of 
Morse, 136-37 

Strutt, Jedediah, partner of 
Ark wright, 86 

Sturgeon, William, on Henry, 
197 

Submarines, FuJ Ion's interest 
in, 63-64; invented by Bush- 
nell, 64 (note) 

Sully, ship, 134 

Sun, New York, 147 

Sutcliffe, A. C, Robert Fulton 
and the Clermont, cited, 65 
(note) 

Swan, English inventor of 
carbon filament, 211 

Tack-making machine, 186 
Tariff, beginning of protective, 

90 
Taylor, Zachary, Colt supplies 

revolvers to, 189 
Tedders, 122 



Telegraph, 128 et seq.; bibli- 
ography, 251 

Telephone, 146; bibliography, 
251 

Telluride (Colorado), hydro- 
station at, 218-19 

Tennessee, pioneers in (1790), 
24; buys Whitney's patents, 
48 

Tesla, Nicola, inventor using 
alternating current, 218 

Textile industry, in England, 
33; British inventions, 35- 
36, 125; in New England, 84 
et seq., 125; see also Cotton 
manufacture 

Thimmonier, French inventor 
of sewing machine, 99-100 

Thomas, buys English rights 
in sewing machine, 102 

Thomson, Elihu, process of 
welding, 216; chief American 
inventor in domain of alter- 
nating current, 217-18 

Threshing machines, 120-21 

Thurber, Charles, invents 
typewriter, 150 

Times, London, uses American 
machines, 148 

Tom Thumb, locomotive, 80 

Tompkins. D. A., Cotton and 
Cotton Oil, quoted, 42 

Transportation, in 1790, 26; 
need for better, 57; see also 
Railroads 

Trevithick, Richard, 78; in- 
vents high-pressure engine, 
55; and Evans, 56 

Tribune, New York, 147 

Trolley system, see Electric 
railways 

Turner, C. C, The Romance of 
Aeronautics, quoted, 236-37 

Type, see Printing 

Typewriters, 149-52; bibli- 
ography, 251 

"Unitas Fratrum," 17 
United States, population 



INDEX 



26? 



United States — Continued 
(1790), 23-24; industries, 
24-25; mineral resources, 
25; cotton production, 49; 
population (1860), 124 

Universal Instructor in All 
Arts and Sciences and Penn- 
sylvania Gazette, The, 6 

Vail, Alfred, Morse and, 138, 
139, 142 (note) 

Vail, Judge Stephen, advances 
money for Morse's experi- 
ments, 138 

Van Depoele, C. J., con- 
tributions to electric rail- 
way, 214 

Vanderbilt, Cornelius, Good- 
year and, 170 

Voight, Harry, associate of 
Fitch, 59 

Volta, Alessandro, Italian in- 
vestigator of electricity, 195 

Wages, 125-26 

Walker, Lucretia, wife of S. 

F. B. Morse, 133 
Waltham, textile mill at, 89 
War of 1812, delays establish- 
ment of railroads, 77 
Washington, George, and Eli 

Whitney, 184 
Watt, James, steam engine, 

22, 36, 53-55, 56, 184; 

bibliography, 249 
Webster, Daniel, Goodyear vs. 

Day, 157-60; quoted', 164 
West, Benjamin, and Fulton, 

62; Morse studies under, 

133 
West Point, locomotive, 81 
Western Union Telegraph 

Company, 209 



Westinghouse, George, auto- 
matic air brake, 126; inven- 
tor, 218 

Wheeler and Wilson, manu- 
facturers of sewing machines, 
106 

Whitney, Eli, and the cotton 
gin, 32 et seq.; birth (1765), 
36; youth, 36-37; education, 
37; letter to his father 
quoted, 38-40; plan for 
commercializing invention, 
41-43; infringements on 
patent 44, 45; States buy 
patent rights, 45-48; fight for 
rights in Georgia, 51; manu- 
facture of firearms, 52, 180- 
82, 183; standardization of 
parts, 180-82; marriage, 183; 
death (1825), 184; business 
sold to Winchester Repeating 
Arms Company, 184; bibli- 
ography, 248-49, 252-53 

Wilkinson, John, English ma- 
chine tool inventor, 184 

Wilson, A. B., inventions on 
sewing machine, 104 

Wilson, T. L., produces cal- 
cium carbide, 217 

Winchester Repeating Arms 
Company buys Whitney's 
business, 184 

"Wizard of Menlo Park," 
name for Edison, 215 

W T ood, Jethro, invents plough, 
112 

Wright, Orville, and the air- 
plane, 235-40 

Wright, Silas, telegraph brings 
refusal of nomination tc 
convention, 144 

Wright, Wilbur, and the air- 
plane, 235-40 



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